Can my country hear English?: Reflections on the relationship of language to country
journal contributionposted on 26.03.2018, 03:54 by John J Bradley
In July 2015 I sat with a senior Yanyuwa woman named Dinah Norman a-Marrngawi, who has been my teacher of Yanyuwa language and of Yanyuwa ways of knowing the land and sea she calls home, and of her family both human and non-human, for the last 35 years. On this particular day we were proofing a very long text for inclusion into the soon to be published encyclopedia of her language. We were resting, and in the silence she asked in Yanyuwa "Can my country hear English?" To which I responded, "What do you think?" Dinah sat for a while and then quietly said, "I do not think it does, it can only hear Yanyuwa". She left the conversation there and yet it stayed with me, there was in this conversation a deeper understanding of an existential crisis for Dinah. At 85 she is the oldest speaker of her language; there are two other women speakers, who are 76 and 65.
PAN: Philosophy Activism Nature, No. 13, 2017: 68-72