Jones, Sarah C.; Chandler, Paul A.; and Lowe, Kevin, 2010, Sounds, spelling and learning to read an Aboriginal language, in K. Lowe, S. Poetsch, M. Walsh & J. Hobson (Eds.), Re-awakening languages: Theory and practice in revitalisation of Australia's Indigenous languages, Sydney: Sydney University Press, 281-292.
Children who are in Australian Aboriginal language programs in revitalisation settings in New South Wales are learning an Aboriginal language at the same time as learning to read in English. Aboriginal languages and English have alphabetic writing systems and Aboriginal language spelling systems are usually more consistent than English. This means it is possible that learning an Aboriginal language spelling system might influence a child learning to read in English. We report on a pilot study where we explored whether learning an Aboriginal language in a revitalisation program at school is related to skill in decoding in English. We worked with 114 English-speaking children from Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal backgrounds in four public primary schools in two areas of regional New South Wales. Two of these schools were running a whole-ofschool program in a local Aboriginal language in accordance with the Aboriginal Languages K–10 Syllabus (Board of Studies New South Wales 2003). We found some evidence to support a positive relationship between learning an Aboriginal language in a revitalisation setting and learning to decode in English. We also discuss limitations to our study and the need for further research.