The 50 Words Project is a platform created by the University of Melbourne that allows you to hear 50 everyday words in Australian Indigenous Languages. The platform was revamped as a part of NAIDOC 2020 and now features 60 languages. This incredible website provides all Australians a way to connect with Indigenous culture and serves as an important form of cultural preservation. The collection of languages has been created organically through working with communities. They are always looking for further community submissions so the database can continue to be built and shared (Corsetti, 2020).
50 Words Project Interactive Map. Courtesy of 50 Words Project, 2021.
Preserving First Nations languages is an incredibly important part of keeping Indigenous culture intact and alive. Indigenous languages are not just a way of communicating they connect to every part of life. They express knowledge about: law, geography, history, family and human relationships, philosophy, spirituality, anatomy, childcare, health, caring for country, astronomy, biology and food. Language is also a very significant part of connecting people to Country (Johnston, 2020). In a interview by NITV (2020), Ngalia Man Kado Muir talks further about this connection:
"When you lose a language, you lose a worldview. You lose a way of understanding the land on which you are living. You lose an understanding of different philosophies. It makes our lives as human beings a lot poorer if we lose a language."
There were once 250 distinct language groups in Australia; today there are only 120 that are still spoken and they are at risk of being lost as Elders pass on. In many cases, the teaching and stories within Indigenous languages have no English equivalent (La Trobe University, 2020). This makes platforms such as the 50 Words Project very significant. They provide a way of capturing and sharing languages so that future generations can continue to learn and connect with their culture. The 50 Words Project is aiming to feature 100 languages.
Many people may not notice this, but all across Australia many of our place names for suburbs, towns, rivers, mountains and National Parks are in different Indigenous languages. Noticing and paying attention to these words will help generate greater appreciation and respect for the significance of language among all Australians. It’s so important for all Australians to learn First Nations languages as they are the first languages of this country (La Trobe University, 2020). The 50 Words Project is the ideal introduction to language. We encourage everyone to take a look and learn some words of the language in the area that you live to connect to and learn about culture through language.
You can check out the 50 Words Project here.
And if you would like to contribute to recordings of a language not yet included you can email the Research Unit for Indigenous Language at firstname.lastname@example.org