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Director weekly highlights 10 July

Nicholas Evans, Outreach

Date: 10 July 2020

It has been a discouraging week for many as Melbourne goes back under lockdown, and coronavirus continues to rage in so many parts of the world. In the early phase of the pandemic here we rallied around the need to get COVID health messaging translated and adapted into the languages of remote First Nations communities. This week brought another reminder of how vital it is to get information across in a range of languages – well-reported in these two articles from the Guardian, the first reporting on the heroic bottom-up work by residents of the locked-down towers who translated Covid-19 information in 10 different languages in 24 hours, and the second tracing the failure by relevant departments to target the languages for which material was actually needed (Chinese and Arabic were translated, but this hardly covered the wide range of what was needed) and actually explaining the specifics of the Tower lockdowns as opposed to generic messaging about COVID.  

There were quite a few different people trying to get translations going but the main team (that actually knew what kinds of languages were spoken by the folks in the towers) arranged translations in Yoruba, Amharic, Tigrinya, Arabic, French, Somali, Lingala, Oromo, Shona, Ndembele, Swahili and Turkish. (Thanks to Rosey Billington for finding out these details). This was an entirely grassroots effort facilitated by the Twitter user @wanifrombukavu, from South East Mutual Aid, largely through Twitter, WhatsApp, etc.). Images of the translations (and the English version) are in this twitter thread. On behalf of CoEDL I’d like to thank and congratulate Wāni from Bukavu on this heroic effort, using grassroots dedication to do what the government had failed to do, and highlighting how much more needs to be done with public health messaging in languages other than English, as well as more general information about government actions such as the lockdown.  

Tracking down the page you’ll also see that Expression Australia has translated a version into Auslan, and a very useful link to SBS translations of (generic) COVID information into 63 languages 

Meanwhile the lockdowns and other restrictions have not stopped more and more talks and seminars taking place in the burgeoning world of virtual talks. The incredible Abralin Ao Vivo series is keeping up its cracking pace of several talks per day, typically with several hundred viewers from around the world, and this week and next feature substantial content by CoEDL linguists and friends, including: 

Language Variation and Change, Australia: Ao Vivo!(July 9th, 9am AEST): Celeste Rodriguez Louro (moderator), Catherine Travis, James Walker, Gerry Docherty, and John Mansfield.  

Australia’s First Nations Languages – Lessons for Linguistics (July 10th, 9am AEST): Maia Ponsonnet (moderator), Clint Bracknell, Rob Mailhammer, Marija Tabain, Rachel Nordlinger, Alice Gaby, Ilana Mushin.  

Gender: New Horizons (July 14th, 21.00 AEST): Grev Corbett.  

Australia’s Linguistic Landscape(July 17th, 9am AEST): Ilana Mushin (moderator), Jaky Troy, Felicity Meakins, Kate Burridge, John Hajek, Ingrid Piller.  

There will also be an online workshop on sign language recognition, translation and production – see below for details (courtesy of Gabrielle Hodge). 

A reminder to everyone that the ARC DECRA (PhD on or after 1 March 2016) and Future fellowships (PhD between 1 March 2006 and 1 March 2016) are open: 

If you are interested in applying for any of these, think about who you would like to work with (e.g. a CoEDL Chief Investigator) and which university, and discuss it with them as soon as you can. Different universities have different timelines for supporting DECRA applications. For example, the College of Arts and Social Sciences at ANU is looking for initial expressions of interest in mid July 

See also a new recruitment by The Smith Family for a Senior Research and Advocacy Offer (See more details here). 

I’d like to conclude with two congratulations. 

First, CoEDL alumnus Tom Honeyman has accepted a position as Software Program Manager at the Australian Research Data Commons. As linguists are increasingly confronted with the need for more digital storage space for our rapidly expanding data sets, as well as better durability and more navigable architecture, it’s great to have someone like Tom in such a key position. 

Second, I mentioned a couple of weeks back that the Dhurga Dictionary and Learners Grammar has now been completed, and is set to become the central resource for anyone wanting to know more about the language of the NSW South Coast. The physical launch will take place in the Eurobadalla Shire Library in Moruya, 17.00-21.00 today, but thanks to a kind invitation by dictionary co-author Kerry Boyenga, Aboriginal Teacher at St Mary’s Primary School Moruya, those interested in attending the launch virtually may do so – see details below, and if you want to attend virtually please be online by the start time (17.15) and ensure your mike is muted. As the invitation says: Yana-ba yiringga!  Come and rejoice! Congratulations to the whole Dhurga team on behalf of CoEDL.  

Please keep well and find a good balance of real and virtual connectedness through these tough times. 

Nick Evans 


  • Australian Government
  • The University of Queensland
  • Australian National University
  • The University of Melbourne
  • Western Sydney University