Summer Research Scholars contribute to our project

Summer Research Scholars at the Australian National University spent their summer (2022 – 2023) contributing to our project.

L to R: Back: Emily Gilchrist, Bronwyn Wood, Natalie Parker, Larissa Shihoff, Shubo Li, Carmel O’Shannessy, Nic Mezrani, Luke Kenny
  • They added technical linguistic labels to the words in the recordings, for Warlpiri and English (e.g. verb, noun, preposition, etc.)
  • They identified which Warlpiri sounds children can say clearly at each age, e.g. at 12 months, 24 months, 3 years, and so on
  • They added in labels to show where adults and children use their hands and their bodies when they’re communicating, called multimodal interaction
  • They learned about child development in other languages, and about policies about Indigenous languages and early childhood education in Australia
  • They created some illustrations for us to use in the project.
Image by Nic Mezrani 2023

Health professionals and educators participate in Little Kids Learning Languages workshop

Health professionals and educators at the Little Kids Learning Languages workshop in Alice Springs, May 25, 2022

Health professionals and educators participated in the Little Kids learning Languages workshop and launch of the Little Kids’ Word List. We discussed what we’ve done so far, some things we’ve learned, and plans for what to do next.

The Little Kids’ Word List is ready to use!

A picture from the little Kids’ Word List

Go to: The Little Kids’ Word List

The Little Kids’ Word List is a fun way to see which words children know and say in Eastern & Central Arrernte, Warlpiri and English. It was developed from talking with families and recording the words people say to little kids. It will be helpful for families and for people in health and education.

It is an internationally authorised word list, authorised by the Macarthur Bates Communicative Development Inventory Advisory Board.

International authorisation for the Little Kids Word List!

Good news – we meet an international standard! The Little Kids Word List (LKWL) is now authorised by the MacArthur-Bates Communicative Development Inventories Advisory Board. This means that it is an internationally-recognised way of keeping track of young children’s language development in four languages spoken in Central Australia. It will be ready for families and health and education people to use soon!

Talking to people about the Little Kids’ Word List

Vanessa and Carmel have presented about the Little Kids’ Word List at the Australian National University Culture and Language Education Symposium (Nov 25, 2021), and the Australian Linguistic Society Annual Conference, in a symposium about Australian Indigenous Children’s Languages (Dec 3, 2021). It looks like lots of people are interested in learning about the words that families use with little kids!

A picture from the Little Kids’ Word List, with the icons parents can tap on to show which words their children understand and can say.

Sound games for children

In addition to the Little Kids’ Word List, we’ve also made games for children to play that will help us learn about how these children say and hear the sounds in their languages! There are two games, which we’ll explain here now.

In the picture naming game, children are asked to help a little girl find her lost dog. In order to help get the girl closer to the dog, children see a picture of a thing or an action and hear the word. Then the children repeat the name of the picture that they just heard. Every time they say a word, the girl gets closer to finding her dog! We use the recordings of the children saying these words to learn how children say the sounds in the words at different ages.

In the listening game, children meet a child who is learning to speak their language. Since the child is still learning, sometimes she says words right and sometimes says words a little funny. Every time she says a word, the children are asked whether she said the word right or if she said the word funny. Using this game, we learn how children hear the differences between the sounds in their languages.

Children can play these two games in English, Eastern and Central Arrernte, and Western Arrarnta, depending on which languages they hear at home. We’ve tried these games out with a few children from 4 to 11 years old. Children like the picture naming game, and they enjoy helping the girl find her lost dog. However, sometimes they have trouble playing the listening game and understanding exactly what they’re meant to do. We’re currently working on changing the listening game to make it easier for children to understand and play.