About Yolgnu Language

Yolngu talk and converse in their own language 24 / 7.  The subject matter is typically family and yolngu rom. Rom is yolngu way of life, law and obligations.

The Yolngu alphabet consists of various sounds e.g.; ng, dj, tj, ny, nh, retroflex’s and glottoral’s not present in English and similarly English has various sounds such as c, f, q, s, t, x, v, z not present in Yolngu.

When English speakers briefly intervene their effectiveness is limited. Not only is the information in a second language but it consists of technical words, concepts and assumed meaning that they are unfamiliar with. People quickly tire of computing the different language and sounds, the words they don’t really understand continue to pile up and sooner or later they have switched off.

When asked if they understand they say yes, when a joke is made they laugh and for all intents and purpose it appears like the exchange was completely understood. How well it was practically understood is another thing.

You might know because you were told that 2+2 = 4 or 4 +4=8. But if you don’t understand the reasoning behind it, you can’t produce the answer for 8 + 8. Just because a person can repeat a word does not mean they have the same understanding of the word as the speaker.     

Much of it is in the realm of the abstract. Abstract translation in a cross-cultural context is not easy.


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