This phrasebook has been developed by the Bininj Kunwok Regional Language Centre for people who come to work or visit and would like to know more about the people and language of the region. It provides useful words and phrases for interacting with Bininj in appropriate and respectful ways, and gives additional information about the culture and life in the region.
The phrasebook may not include some of the words and phrases you expect to find in a travellers' phrasebook. There are no entries for words like please and thank you, because these words don’t exist in Bininj Kunwok (though most Bininj are familiar with English and will use them with English speakers). There are no phrases to help you book a hotel room or visit a medical centre, as these activities would likely only happen in English. Instead, the book focuses on the kinds of situations in which you are likely to encounter Bininj using their own language, and will enable you to engage with them at a basic level in these situations.
You are likely to find Bininj people appreciate your efforts to interact with them in their language, even when you make mistakes. They may laugh at your efforts, but they are not mocking you, more likely they are amused that a ‘Balanda’ (non-Indigenous person) is even trying to use their language.
Be aware that not all Bininj people are literate in their own language, so showing someone a word or phrase, or asking them to spell something, might make them uncomfortable. Instead, use verbal prompts to ask people to repeat, then copy what you hear, rather than trying to match it to the written word.
This book is based on the work of the Bininj Kunwok Regional Language Centre.
The authors acknowledge the traditional owners of the lands on which Bininj Kunwok varieties are spoken in the Kakadu and western Arnhem Land regions: speakers of the Kundjeyhmi, Kunwinjku, Kuninjku, Kune, Kundedjnjenghmi and Mayali languages.
The information was compiled by Cathy Bow with the support of Charles Darwin University, based on information provided by members of the Bininj Kunwok Regional Language Centre, particularly Ngalwakadj Jill Nganjmirra, Ngalkodjok Dell Hunter and Ngalbangardi Jeanette Burrunali. The audio recordings are by Bangardidjan Jocelyn Koyole and Kamarrang Ben Burrunali, with the online version developed by Danny Kennedy. The artwork is by Graham Rostron with support from Katie Hagebols. The book was inspired by a doublesided handout prepared by Andy Peart in 2019. The project was overseen by Ingrid Johanson and linguist Dr Murray Garde OAM.
The beautiful printed version of this phrasebook is full of additional diagrams, images and cultural information (such as kinship, politeness, seasons and verb conjugations) as well as all the phrases on this site. It's a must-have for anyone working in the West Arnhem / Kakadu area, as well as interested travellers and enthusiasts of all kinds!
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This book is dedicated to all bininj and daluk who have contributed to documenting Bininj Kunwok over many decades, in order for their language to remain strong, and thrive into the future. It is also in memory of Cathy Bow, who sadly passed away during this project.
Graphics by Graham Rostron, Copyright Artist and Copyright Agency 2022