Learning Pitjantjatjara – the Final Day

It was the final day of the intensive course today, which was a little sad. We’d all bonded well over two weeks and 80 plus hours of Pitjantjatjara learning. I hope that once I’m back on the Pit Lands, we will get a class up and going and that I’ll be brave enough to broker detailed conversations with some of my colleagues in Pit.

I was pretty impressed with the accuracy of some of the guesses in the comments of the last post. They all seemed well-educated considering the sounds of Pitjantjatjara would be foreign to most readers. So here’s the answers:

  • tangkiyi (an animal) – donkey
  • patjikala (a vehicle) – bicycle
  • tarawatja (an item of clothing) – trousers
  • pulitjamunu (an occupation) – policeman
  • tiritja (an item of clothing) – dress
  • pitikuta (an item of clothing) – skirt
  • wayatjara (a cooking implement) – billy (metal pot for boiling water)
  • raipula (a hunting implement) – rifle
  • mutuka (a vehicle) – car
  • paatja (a vehicle) – bus
  • tjiya (an object) – chair
  • taipula (an object) – table
  • kapamanta (a very, very large organisation or employee of said organisation) – government/government employee

One last anecdote before my journey back to the Pit Lands begins:

When translating languages, confusion from mistranslation almost always ensues. Anangu must have had some difficulties with the idea that the missionaries’ God promised them everlasting caterpillars through Jesus Christ.

All it took was an omission of an    . There are three very similar words which non-Indigenous people (particularly English speakers) find difficult to tell the difference between when hearing, and

wanka – life, alive, raw etc

wangka – to speak/talk

wanka – caterpillar, spider, spiderweb



1 Comment

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One response to “Learning Pitjantjatjara – the Final Day

  1. David Carter

    Hi Luke, I think your toe dip into biblical translation a dangerous’ move, because most people reading may think you ‘re onto something profoundly funny. Many of the mid-century missionaries like Bill, Nancy & Winifred were very sensitive to the almost unknown cultures they were serving in. Many languages (like with Pit) were ‘saved’ by missionaries creating a written, from an oral culture – and contemporary biblical translations show an astonishing and varied response to the challenge of ancient concepts and ideas. I understand that the traditional Hebrew concept of Jesus as lamb of god, has to be dynamically translated as pig of god in some PNG dialects. that would cause offence to Jewish Christians !! butterflies are a possible symbol of transformation & resurrection so perhaps the mistake is allowable 🙂 ?

    Your old mama ( have I got that right?)

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