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Meet Sylvia

Sylvia is culturally adapting classic children's stories and translating them into her language, Anindilyakwa.

The Groote Eylandt archipelago is home to the Anindilyakwa people, or Warnumamalya, an Aboriginal Australian people who have inhabited the islands of the Gulf of Carpentaria since time long past. Their language, Anindilyakwa (Amamalya Ayakwa), spoken by around 1,486 people according to the 2016 Australian census, faces external pressure from English as it has since the arrival of Europeans on the continent just 400 years ago. Institutionalized oppression throughout British colonization discouraged the use of the Anindilyakwa people’s ancestral language.

However, thanks to the hard work of activists like Sylvia Tkac, the Anindilyakwa language is growing: the 2016 Australian census showed an increase of 200 speakers from the previous census in 2006. This project, led by Sylvia Tkac and Binh Phan, entails establishing resources that teachers, children, and language learners can use. They are translating 12 popularized children’s stories from the public domain (for example, The Little Mermaid, The Three Little Pigs, and Rapunzel) and localizing the stories. These translations will be accompanied by audio recordings and illustrations, commissioned from Anindilyakwa artists.

Sylvia's Background

Sylvia Tkac is an Anindilyakwa woman from Bickerton Island, within the Groote Eylandt archipelago. Her mother tongue is Anindilyakwa, or Amamalya Ayakwa ‘True Words’. Growing up, she was discouraged from speaking her native language, which sparked her passion for language preservation and promotion.  She previously worked with the Groote Eylandt Language Centre as a language officer before moving to Darwin to become an interpreter with the Aboriginal Interpreter Services. She provides translation assistance to her local community during their encounters with police, the judicial system, medical services, and government programs. She is the voice for her community when government and health bodies need recordings in Aboriginal languages.  Anindilyakwa is historically an oral language. Sylvia wants to increase literacy and opportunities for local Anindilyakwa children by creating stories that will be valuable resources for them during their learning journeys.

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