Navigation – Plan du site

Student-educator Tandem in the Pedagogy of Endangered Languages in Australia

Tandem élève-éducateur dans la pédagogie des langues en voie de disparition
Christiane Charon


Le but de cette contribution est de proposer une solution pratique pour un des défis les plus importants dans le domaine de l'éducation en Australie : l’absence de beaucoup de langues indigènes de l'école. La recherche sur l’éducation bilingue et multilingue au XXIème siècle et les considérations concernant la communication interculturelle constituent les points de départ pour cette enquête sur l’apprentissage en tandem qui implique des langues indigènes. Tous les élèves de l'étude pilote sont Australiens d’origine aborigène en pensionnat à Darwin, la capitale du Territoire du Nord en Australie. Grâce à un modèle de tandem créé spécifiquement, les élèves enseignent leurs langues à leur tutrice faisant ainsi émerger une gamme de stratégies d’enseignements et de corrections. Celles-ci délimitent les caractéristiques du tandem entre élève et éducateur par le biais d’une exploration de formes multimodales d’apprentissage et d'alphabétisation. Cette exploration implique une négociation constante entre oralité et alphabétisation d’une part, et, d’autre part, entre les savoirs indigènes et les savoirs non-indigènes.

Haut de page

Notes de l’auteur

Open Data Statement
“The data and/or datasets generated and analyzed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.”

Texte intégral


  • 1 As Burridge et al. have clarified: “The term “Indigenous” is the preferred term used by Commonwealt (...)

1This article presents an explorative approach to prepare the ground for a larger scale experimentation on student-educator tandem as a way of integrating endangered Indigenous1 languages in urban Australian schools. I developed student-educator tandem as a model of tandem learning which is suitable for Indigenous students and their non-Indigenous educators. The purpose of the pilot study presented here was threefold:
a) To implement this model in a boarding school in Australia's Northern Territory.

2b) To document the emerging specific characteristics of student-educator tandem for Indigenous languages.

3c) To assess the suitability of both the research protocol and the chosen methodology.

4Tandem has been originally conceptualised as a learning process where two people of different mother tongues collaborate in order to learn each other's language, to get to know each other and each other's cultures (Brammerts, “Tandem” 2; Brammerts, “Autonomes” 10; Ciekanski 12; Kleppin 168). In a pilot study in August 2016, I tested the adapted model of student-educator tandem whilst working as a tutor with Indigenous students over a period of four weeks at a residential college in Darwin, Australia. During tutoring sessions, I asked four students, who are speakers of endangered Indigenous languages from various regions across the north of Australia, to teach me their native language/s. I was thus implicated in the pilot study in a double role: as the tutor participating in the tandem and as the researcher conducting the study.

5The conclusions presented in this article stem from a qualitative-descriptive research method that uses a protocol of observations, audio-recording transcripts and description of discourse features following the error treatment sequence model developed by Lyster and Ranta (44). The pilot study will show how viable this research protocol is in the light of some unique challenges in Indigenous education involving orality versus literacy and representation of Indigenous versus non-Indigenous knowledge. These challenges derive from the fact that Australian Indigenous languages are oral languages carrying specific cultural knowledge (McCarty and Nicholas 145).

6In section one of this contribution, I will offer some theoretical foundations of how students could tackle some of these challenges through student-educator tandem. First, student-educator tandem will be demarcated from the established notion of tandem which has gained academic currency since the 1970s. I will then consider student-educator tandem in the light of discussions on translanguaging and intercultural communication. The methodological approach will be described in section two. I will illustrate how educational praxis and research for this explorative study went hand in hand for the implementation and material resourcing of the tandem model. In section three, I will present a sample of representative student- educator tandem exchanges in order to test the methodology chosen for analysing the data. In section four, I will evaluate the pilot study protocol and methodology in terms of feasibility with a view to a larger scale project.

1. Theoretical framework

1.1. Student-educator tandem: an adaptation of the traditional tandem principles

7Ever since formal education started in the new colony, a significant gap has existed between the quality of education and the quality of life accessible to Indigenous versus non-Indigenous Australians (Commonwealth of Australia 9; Duguid 151). Among other factors, this is due to the ongoing linguicide which has been occurring since colonisation when over 250 Australian Indigenous languages existed. In 2014, the government-funded report of the Second National Indigenous Languages Survey found that only around 120 of these languages are still spoken today. The vast majority, about 100 languages, are critically endangered (Marmion et al. xii). To counter this trend, Indigenous languages have been part of the national curriculum since December 2015 but not many schools have found ways to implement and actually teach one or several Indigenous languages relevant to their school community (Commonwealth of Australia 57). Among other factors, this is due to a lack of teachers of these languages (Hickling-Hudson and Ahlquist 86).

8It is not realistic to believe that educators will get a chance to spend years in the bush and educate themselves in an Indigenous language like some missionaries and linguists were able to do in the past (Albrecht 83, Gale 69; Schurmann 26; Strehlow, “Dark and White” 19; Strehlow, “Assimilation Problems” 13; Telfer 113). The proposed tandem model offers an alternative starting point for educators in urban institutional contexts.

9The ease of application of tandem principles by anyone who is not an education professional has long been established by tandem scholars (Brammerts, “Tandem” 3; Brammerts, “Autonomes” 9). Tandem thus lends itself to the present context where some of the teaching responsibility is in the hands of middle school students who have to use English to explain features or vocabulary of their home languages to their tutor. English works as a lingua franca in student-educator tandem following Kohn’s idea of getting students to experience authentic situations where using English is indispensable for effective communication (90).

10The traditional recognised concept of tandem most commonly occurs in addition to language courses at school or university, as part of professional adults' self study or as intensive courses, for instance during student exchange programmes or special school holiday camps offered by organisations like Deutsch-Französisches Jugendwerk (Brammerts, “Autonomes” 15; Ciekanski 9; Kleppin 165). In contrast, the pilot study places tandem firmly within the institutional education context. This means moving away from the established tandem principle of learner autonomy, where each learner is free to decide on the content, time and mode of learning and the assistance expected from the tandem partner” (Brammerts, “Autonomes” 10). In the pilot study, the responsibility for and the monitoring of the learning process lie almost exclusively with the educator/researcher. I had to prepare materials and set goals in line with the students' linguistic profiles and areas of interest. However, as Ciekanski and Kleppin have stated, it is important to bear in mind that the established tandem principles have to be understood more as guidelines which can be flexible to suit any specific context (139) as illustrated in Table 1.

11What remains unchanged from the established notion of tandem is the defining element of improving linguistic and cultural knowledge in authentic communication with a fluent speaker while finding out more about the tandem partner, their interests and their cultural background.

Table 1. Principles of tandem and student-educator tandem

Principles of tandem according to Brammerts (“Autonomes” 10)

Modified tandem for the pilot study involving Indigenous languages

Autonomy: learner responsibility, including negotiation about areas of focus and modalities of the exchange, e.g. error correction, frequency, location and duration of meetings

Guided and scaffolded exchanges, initiated by the educator during a fixed time within school contact hours

Reciprocity: exchange should be balanced, benefit should be equal, the tandem pair forms a partnership in learning

Linguistic benefit initially is probably greater for the non-Indigenous educator; social-emotional benefits should be equally enriching as both parties get to know each other better, feel more at ease and eventually empowered to act within the community of practice of the other.

Simple English is used as a lingua franca, however, the tutor also provides feedback on the students’ use of English.

1.2. Student-educator tandem as an actualisation of translanguaging theory and intercultural communication

122020-01-16T11:27:00The development of student-educator tandem in this pilot study forms part of an international movement which places Indigenous languages as protagonists in a global endeavour to maintain and safeguard autochthonous knowledges through education (McCarty and Nicholas 160). Translanguaging as elaborated by García and Li Wei (42) offers a very useful starting point for the exploration of such pedagogies. Based on the premise that no strict separation between autonomous L1 and L2/3/etc. and therefore no additive multilingualism exist, human beings are assumed to be equipped with only one dynamic linguistic system instead. In this system, all linguistic capabilities, or “linguistic features” (García and Li Wei 15) are integrated, accessed and developed in a continuum-like manner. Throughout the life of the individual, these features make up his or her particular linguistic repertoire (García and Li Wei 22). A similar idea has been captured by the term “multi-competence”, defined as “the overall system of a mind or community that uses more than one language” (Cook 3).

  • 2 My translation for : « école véritablement multi-inter-transculturelle » (Akkari and Broyon 17).

13Descriptors such as “integration” (García and Li Wei 15), “interconnectedness” and “mutual interdependence” (21) illustrate the term 'translanguaging'. These descriptors resonate strongly with the positive outcomes associated with tandem practice (Kleppin 168) and even with the desired outcomes of the Australian reconciliation effort (Reconciliation Australia). García and Li Wei have found that bilingual education has so far been ineffective in creating a more equitable educational environment for students from language minorities (44). They suggest translanguaging as a transformative practice that goes beyond the nation-state and its associated educational systems (43-44) much like the “truly multi-inter-transcultural school2” envisaged by Akkari and Broyon (17). As the educator is taught by a student, student-educator tandem can create a learning space where students and teachers take on one another's role interchangeably as stipulated by Freire (65).

14One of García's and Li Wei's key exigencies is that “teachers need to develop a critical sociopolitical consciousness about the linguistic diversity of the children” (123). The proposed student-educator tandem enables educators to do just that and therefore has the potential to release Australian classrooms from the dichotomies between Indigenous and non-Indigenous, orality and literacy, possibly even between language of power and suppressed language. García and Li Wei specify that [t]ranslanguaging [...] liberates language from structuralist-only or mentalist-only or even social-only definitions. Instead, it signals a trans-semiotic system with many meaning-making signs, primarily linguistic ones that combine to make up a person's semiotic repertoire (42).

15This multimodal dimension typical of translanguaging education (Collins and Cioè-Peña 130) is mirrored in the student-educator tandem exchanges where, apart from linguistic signs, drawings are also used in the meaning-making process between the students and the tutor. Like translanguaging education, student-educator tandem involving Indigenous Australian languages promotes “liberating the voices of the oppressed” (García and Li Wei 42). Through the use of multimodality, the oral Indigenous languages involved in the pilot study are brought into sight and into writing and thus gain equality with the language of power, Standard Australian English.

16On a practical level, in terms of lesson design, significant overlap exists between the pedagogical strategy of translanguaging and the proposed adapted tandem model. Apart from the cooperative space which allows for power relations between educators and students to be transformed, the collecting of multilingual resources is an essential component of the educator's preparatory work (Collins and Cioè-Peña 130-131, 138). Another parallel between the two approaches, as seen in 'The dugong' excerpt quoted in section three of this contribution, is the grouping of students according to shared home languages (Collins and Cioè-Peña 135; Ebe and Chapman-Santiago 59; García and Li Wei 122).

17Two significant differences between translanguaging education and the proposed student-educator tandem model are evident, though. The first is the stipulation that translanguaging in classrooms can happen without the teacher having to know the students' home languages (Ebe and Chapman-Santiago 76). The adapted tandem model aims at establishing some knowledge of students' home languages for the benefit of the educator. The second difference is that the scenarios examined by García and Li Wei and García, Kleyn and their co-researchers involve language repertoires with established writing conventions as opposed to oral Indigenous languages (Ebe and Chapman-Santiago 57). While knowing how to write in a language is not a prerequisite of being able to translanguage, it does have practical implications such as the availability and use of online translation tools or dictionaries (García and Li Wei 106) and the possibility to use such resources to create “multilingual word walls” to increase language visibility in the school community (122).

18Despite its promises, translanguaging is not yet widely used by policy makers and education practitioners (García and Kleyn 200; García and Li Wei 135, 137) whose decisions often seem to remain anchored in static views of language and culture. Intercultural communication scholar Ingrid Piller has criticised such understandings of language and culture as “discursive construction” (Piller 5). Piller pronounces a significant caveat against culturism: “In thrall to a cultural world view, we see “culture” where linguistic proficiency and communicative competence (or their lack) and inequality and injustice would explain much more” (Piller 8). The argument of cultural difference has often been used to account for the failure of mainstream teaching and pedagogy in many Australian schools with Indigenous students, thus distracting from the issue of language (Perso 67). Spanning a period of four centuries, from the beginning of colonisation to the current day, this discourse may be one reason for some less effective pedagogical initiatives. Once its efficacy has been verified in a larger-scale study, the proposed tandem model could provide additional pieces of evidence in an endeavour to offer alternative pedagogical tools for the complexities of classrooms around the world.

2. Methodology of the student-educator tandem pilot study

2.1. Research protocol

19The aim of this pilot study is to assess the feasibility of student-educator tandem, a tandem model in which students teach their home languages to their educator (cf. Table 1) and to document the emerging characteristics of this model of teaching and learning so as to refine its design for a follow-up study on a larger scale.

20The research site selected for the implementation of the adapted model was a private middle and senior school in Darwin founded by Catholic missionaries in the 1960s. This school was chosen based on my professional experience there seven years earlier as Coordinator for English as a Second Language. At the time of the pilot study, the school had an enrolment of about 350 students, all receiving English-medium instruction delivered by non-Indigenous, anglophone educators. With approximately 50 % of students coming from thirty-five Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander communities, the school has always been open to research about how to best serve this particular student population.2020-01-16T11:47:00

21Following Eckerth (281) and García and Kleyn (184) in their idea that educational research conducted by outsiders should always be embedded in the ongoing educational programme, I offered student-educator tandem as part of the tutoring programme. At the time of the pilot study in August 2016, 90 minutes of tutoring on four evenings per week were compulsory for all boarding students to support them with homework assignments and with developing general academic skills.

22As a new tutor, I got to know the students and their languages through informal conversation before, after and during tutoring and obtained their consent to audio-record our sessions. In the ensuing adapted tandem sessions, I worked with the students either one-on-one or with two students at a time. The students were 11 and 12 years old and in year 7, the start of middle school. All of them had started at the school in January 2016, so they were somewhat used to school routine. Four students had been selected by the tutoring coordinator to participate in the pilot project. The coordinator had identified them as needing special attention in their ESL literacy work.

23During the student-educator tandem sessions, a corpus of three hours and seven minutes of audio-recordings of 13 student-educator tandem exchanges could be obtained. The 13 individual sessions varied in length between 13 and 30 minutes with most sessions lasting 14 minutes on average. This variance is due to other homework assignments taking priority on certain evenings.

24As the pilot study only yielded a relatively small corpus of data, anecdotal notes on general observations and conversations, taken immediately after the sessions, complemented the audio-recordings. Video-recording was not used in accordance with the school’s privacy policy. The recordings have been transcribed, then analysed with a particular focus on stance and feedback techniques, drawing on the work of Du Bois and Lyster and Ranta. Multimodality, defined by García and Li Wei as “a trans-semiotic system with many meaning-making signs, primarily linguistic ones” (42) has provided the conceptual lens for the analysis of the materials proposed during the student-educator tandem sessions.

25In this contribution, six excerpts from a 13-minute session about native Australian animals with Iwaidja as the target language have been chosen for micro-analyses to test the suitability of discourse analysis to describe the emerging characteristics of student-educator tandem. The excerpts stem from a single session recorded on the sixth day of the pilot study. When selecting the excerpts, I looked for ones that were representative of the entire corpus.

2.2. From the model to the implementation: profiling of participants and creation of material

262020-01-16T12:02:00Two students participated in this Iwaidja sessions. The boys, anonymised as D. and R., had identified Iwaidja, Maung and Kunwinjku as their home languages (cf. Table 2). In English, the students were able to understand basic information and express themselves using simple English in contexts which allow a high degree of predictability. The students' overall English levels thus corresponded to A1 of the CEFR, the Common European Framework of Reference (Council of Europe).

Table 2. Student profiles


Home languages (main home language underlined)

Number of speakers of the students' main home language

Number of years of formal education prior to moving to Darwin

Proficiency in English (according to the CEFR)

Time at the residential college


Kunwinjku; some Maung and Iwaidja


(Endangered Languages Project)



6 months


Iwaidja and Maung

150 (Endangered Languages Project)

Interrupted primary education


6 months

27Census day, a national data collection initiative carried out by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, provided a useful starting point for creating more detailed linguistic and educational profiles of the participants. Assisting the students with the completion of the official form involved reading the questions to the students and providing assistance with spelling. This was especially salient for a question on languages other than English spoken at home since spelling conventions for these originally oral languages had to be verified using online searches on LAAL, the Living Archive of Aboriginal Languages (McPhillips) and AUSIL, the Australian Society for Indigenous Languages.

28The data from the census forms combined with the notes taken after having worked with the students on homework assignments for the three previous evenings allowed me to compile the following language and education profiles:

  • D. identifies as a speaker of Kunwinjku as his first home language. He was partly brought up by his aunt on Croker Island and therefore also learnt Maung and Iwaidja. When he moved to Croker Island from his original community, his formal schooling was interrupted. D. tends to be disruptive when he cannot understand or fulfil the academic requirements.

  • R. is a lively, extrovert student who speaks both Iwaidja and Maung as his home languages. R. started learning English in primary school. He enjoys music and singing and likes to joke with the classmates and tutors, often to distract from a challenging academic task at hand. Due to family issues, his primary education has been interrupted.

29This profiling was the preliminary step for the preparation of individualised, language-specific materials for the student-educator tandem sessions. In Hickling-Hudson's and Ahlquist's comparative study about Eurocentrism versus culturally responsive curricula in two schools in the United States and two schools in Australia, the schools where teachers used Indigenous texts as much as possible and wrote a lot of their own material had lower rates of absenteeism and higher rates of school completion (79). The pilot study follows this same approach by using materials which were adapted to the four participating students’ personal linguistic and academic profiles. For the session analysed below, I made a mind map with my drawings of native Australian animals which I then labelled using the online dictionary available on AUSIL. I noted the lesson goal, naming 15 native Australian animals at the bottom of the mind map.

3. Sample analysis

30The purpose of this sample analysis is to show the specific characteristics of student-educator tandem for Indigenous languages and to test the methodology used to analyse this data. In the examples reproduced below, the cousins R. and D. wanted to work together as my teachers. I provide six fragments (A–F) of this particular tandem session in order to zero in on stancetaking, feedback techniques and the use of multimodality in the analyses that follow. The fragments are reproduced in chronological order to capture the sequence in which we move through the 15 animal names. C. stands for Christiane, the tutor and researcher, R. and D. are the students.2020-01-16T15:03:00

A. Start of the tandem
C.: This one is in Iwaidja and I did the animals.
R.: Who taught you this?
C.: I checked from the dictionary.
R.: What is this animal?
C.: karn- grankurrk
R.: What is this?
R.: Miss, miss. [points to the word for caterpillar] win, win...
C.: Winjulam.
R.: We don't call this that.
B. The Wallaby example
C.: Say it again? How do you say it? Il-
D.: Ilbuwi.
C.: Ilbuwi.
D.: Ilbuwii. [emphasis on last 'i' sound makes it sound longer]
C.: Ilbuwii. [imitates D.'s pronunciation]
D.: Yeah. (nods)
C. The snake example
R.: How do you spell 'arrugin'?
D.: S-N-A-K-E
D.: gin
R.: Arrugin / D.: [slowly repeats in the background] Arrugin, arrugin.
D.: A-rrugin [negotiates the spelling on the paper]
C.: Nice work. Arrugin, ok [...]
D. The dugong example
R.: I don't know what this word. [points to the word 'marndiyingunyuny']
C.: Dugong.
D.: Marndiyingunyuny.
[R. proposes alternative simplified spelling on the paper]
C.: Is it right? [points to the word 'marndiyingunyuny' on the paper]
R.: No, that's wrong spelling, Miss. I'll show you.
C.: Ok.
R.: Marn – Ma-rn-di-nu-nu.
C.: Mmh, that's a bit easier, too, than this spelling, isn't it?
R.: Equal dugong [draws the mathematical = sign and then starts to slowly write the word in English behind it]
C.: Du - gong. No, no, you're right.
D.: Have you seen dugong in true life?
C.: No, never.
D.: I eat it.
R.: Yeah, we eat it, in our way.
C.: You're missing one letter. [points to dugong spelling]
D.: I-N-G
C.: N-G at the end [pause to check spelling] where did you, where did you find it?
D.: Croker Island
E. Sandfly totem
C.: This one here I think is sandfly.
R.: What's that?
C.: You know the little insects that bite you.
R.: We don't because that's our totem. [...] They bite us but we don't get a lump
F. End of session – review test as self-assessment
C.: Ok, we'll do a quick test.
C.: So I'll try for cow, bulikang, snake, arrougin, for jellyfish is yungurr.
C.: And ilbuwi.
D.: Yeah kangaroo, they swim.

3.1. Taking on the teacher's role? Stancetaking and corrective feedback in student-educator tandem

31One might speculate that student-educator tandem would facilitate a role reversal with students being the experts in their home languages and the tutor being the novice. Du Bois' s view of stance “as a linguistically articulated form of social action whose meaning is to be construed within the broader scope of language, interaction, and sociocultural value” (139) offers a useful way to examine the roles which the participants in the student-educator tandem sessions assumed. The linguistic acts functioning equally as social acts (141) which most saliently show these roles in the data set are examples of teacher talk being used by students.

32Only one student uses teacher talk. This is the question by R.: “Are you sure this is your real homework?” (C). In addition to teacher talk, giving feedback is another linguistic act through which stancetaking is actualised. Examining the types of feedback used sheds more light on how the studets fulfill their teaching assignment and how this linguistic act positions them as language experts. The feedback types recorded in the data set are “clarification request’ (Lyster and Ranta 47), “explicit correction” (46), “recast” (53), and “metalinguistic feedback” (47).

33Clarification requests are most frequent at the beginning of the session (A). R. points to seven words on the animal names mind map, one after the other, and asks “What is this animal?” or “What’s this?”. This is a dynamic way of moving through the vocabulary as R. gets me to read the Iwaidja words for different animals. It allows me to practice the pronunciation of the new words. At the same time, R. matches what he hears to the written words on the paper. Sometimes explicit correction of the written version is required (D) when R. states “No, that's wrong spelling, Miss. I'll show you.” R. is also quick to note certain incongruencies between the dictionary vocabulary for insects and the actual usage as he knew it from his mother. In one instance, he disagreed completely with the word the dictionary proposed for the English 'caterpillar', but did not provide the correct form (A).

34For the pronunciation work on ilbuwi (B), the type of feedback D. uses initially is a recast, or more precisely for this case “repetition with change and emphasis” (Chaudron 37), followed by uptake defined by Lyster and Ranta as “a student’s utterance that immediately follows the teacher’s feedback and that constitutes a reaction in some way to the teacher’s intention to draw attention to some aspect of the student’s initial utterance” (49). Here the uptake takes the form repetition and results in “repair” (49). D.’s feedback makes me realise the subtleties of pronunciation which cannot be understood exclusively by looking at the written representation of words through self-study from the dictionary. After my uptake, D.'s final “post-repair reinforcement” (51) is non-verbal. He nods approvingly and we move on to another lexical item.

35When it comes to English spelling (D), I revert to the educator's posture for a short moment and first use metalinguistic feedback to assist the student. I then provide explicit correction for the ending of 'dugong', the spelling of the velar nasal [ŋ]. Elsewhere, I use a form of elicitation (C) when I provide the start of the word arrugin to scaffold the students into writing it.

36For pedagogical interventions such as disciplining, for instance when R. tries to scribble on his hand with a red pen, (C.: “No don't put, don't put it on your skin, please.”) or initiating the learning activities (F), the preset roles of tutor and student also remain intact. One additional consideration is that the preparation of materials was entirely in my hands. A real exchange of roles would imply that students also completed this very important step in the teaching process: the selection and preparation of culturally relevant learning materials.

37The sharing of cultural knowledge is also foregrounded in the data. In the relatively short exchange on Iwaidja animals, the two students volunteered four examples of specific cultural knowledge, for instance about the hunting of dugong (D), the sandfly totem (E) and kangaroos' swimming skills (F).

38From the careful examination of linguistic acts in the data set, it can be concluded that rather than a role reversal taking place, co-teaching emerged as a preferred mode of instruction which enabled the students to share relevant cultural information in their tandem exchanges with me. However, in order to give meaningful feedback such as illustrated in the examples above, a certain degree of expertise is necessary. This expertise is evident in the way the students use corrective feedback successfully in our sessions which positions them as knowledgeable contributors in the learning activities.

3.2. Use of multimodality - from speaking to spelling, drawing and annotating

39One overarching feature of all sessions was the students' multimodal orientation using all the resources at their disposal to assist me. During the online searches on LAAL and AUSIL on census day, the students were intrigued to see how the linguists who had documented their languages had used the Roman alphabet to represent the sounds of Indigenous languages. So far, English had been the language of writing for the students who have not been exposed to writing in their home languages. In their primary school, all subjects were taught in English by English-speaking teaching staff.

40The excerpts reproduced above exemplify cooperation between the two speakers of Iwaidja and Maung in the negotiated spelling of oral language. In the entire session, R. and D. wrote down the English equivalent of nine of the Iwaidja words, even though that meant taking a risk in terms of spelling words that they had not practised before in their ESL class such as 'dugong' (D). R.'s use of the = sign in (D) shows equality between the two languages on paper. He spontaneously created a visualisation of the social agenda described by translanguaging theory according to García and Li Wei (137) and García and Kleyn (198-199) which aims at dissolving the power imbalance between named languages. R. drew on his knowledge of a mathematical sign to create a clear end product: a multimodal overview of animal names written in Iwaidja followed by their English translation and further clarified with a drawing.

41Similarly, after having discussed the names of several native animals represented on my mind map, R. and D. remarked that the word for snake was missing (C). R. quickly drew a snake and then wanted to label it. D.’s peer feedback immediately reverted to English as soon as I asked the students to write the word. However, following a short prompt in the form of an elicitation, D. finished the word (“gin”) and then attempted a written representation of his oral home language.

42A certain degree of hesitation and scepticism about writing down oral language became evident in all recorded sessions as students often paused over the written versions of words they knew. They sometimes did not recognise words due to the spelling which in their view did not correspond to the spoken word (A and D). Overall, though, the students' reactions to seeing their languages written down were positive. This shows a potential for inclusion of these languages in written form in Australian classrooms alongside English.

4. Evaluation of the pilot study

4.1. Suitability of the protocol

43As the adapted model is not part of any education programme yet, it had to be implemented first in order to generate observable and recordable data. Choosing a small cohort in a small school has limited the generalisations that can be made. However, in-depth studies focussing on just one student, a small group of students (Dewilde; Allard and Wedin) or just one teacher (Mary and Young) are not uncommon in translanguaging research. A small group of participants can be envisageable for the follow-up study, which should, however, include student feedback.

44In order to ensure the scientific validity of the follow-up study, it would be desirable to replicate the student-educator tandem model without being directly involved in the sessions myself. This would test whether the model can be used by any educator who has not been exposed to Indigenous languages in their career. Feedback about the practicability of the student-educator tandem model should be sought from this educator in the follow-up study.

45Apart from being a necessity for the implementation of student-educator tandem, making my own materials also had a pedagogical use: to model different ways of learning vocabulary for the students, using visual aids, mind maps and writing. From a learner's perspective, it helped me to identify basic grammatical features of the languages such as the absence of grammatical articles. A co-preparation of materials was partially achieved through the students’ appropriation of the mind maps shown in the ways in which they annotated them as shown above in section three. If more tutors had been involved in the pilot study, a collaborative preparation of materials would have been highly desirable.

4.2. Suitability of the methodology used for data analysis

46The discourse analysis of the transcripts on a micro-level has proven to be a suitable methodology for the data analysis. Due to the interpretative depth derived from this analysis, I have been able to identify the unique features of student-educator tandem. The analysis of the transcripts has thus served as a way to evaluate whether student-educator tandem could be a suitable approach in a pedagogical framework aiming to integrate endangered languages into urban boarding schools.

47Student-educator tandem enables collaborative meaning-making processes using multimodality to address the complexities of Indigenous languages. It provides Indigenous students with an avenue to share linguistic and cultural knowledge within an urban boarding school context where they are exclusively taught by non-Indigenous educators. Co-teaching emerged as the students' chosen mode of lesson delivery. The reasons behind this have not been explored in the scope of this pilot study. For the educator, the tandem experience meant an exposure to previously unacknowledged linguistic processes within the repertoire of the students, such as spelling words they normally only use verbally, providing meaningful feedback and engaging in co-teaching.


48The discursive norms emerging in student-educator tandem seems to facilitate a truly inclusive and mutually enriching learning experience such as witnessed in classrooms where translanguaging was used for teaching and learning. A longitudinal follow-up study is now needed to understand how non-Indigenous educators can work positively with their Indigenous students using student-educator tandem. If practised on a wider scale, student-educator tandem could break down existing language barriers over time and thus contribute significantly to the overall goal of reconciliation in Australia.

Haut de page


Akkari, Abdeljalil, and Marie-Anne Broyon. “La diversité culturelle dans une école mondialisée : entre indifférence, neutralisation et valorisation.” Journal de Recherches - Ecole internationale de Genève, vol. 2, 2014, pp. 4-19, Accessed 26 Feb. 2019.

Albrecht, F. W. “Hermannsburg from 1926 to 1962.” Hermannsburg: A Vision and a Mission, edited by Everard Leske, Lutheran Publishing House, 1977, pp. 42-89.

Allard, Karin, and Åsa Wedin. “Translanguaging and Social Justice: The case of Education for Immigrants who are deaf or hard of hearing”. New Perspectives on Translanguaging and Education, edited by BethAnne Paulsrud, Jenny Rosén, Boglárka Straszer and Åsa Wedin, Bristol, Multilingual Matters, 2017, pp. 90-107.2020-01-16T16:25:00

Australian Society for Indigenous Languages Supporting Indigenous Language Communities. Accessed 3 Mar. 2019.

Brammerts, Helmut. “Tandem per Internet und das International Tandem E-Mail Network.” Leitfaden für das Sprachenlernen im Tandem über das Internet, edited by Helmut Brammerts and David Little, Dr. N. Brockmeyer, 1996, pp. 1-14.

---. “Autonomes Sprachenlernen im Tandem: Entwicklung eines Konzepts.” Selbstgesteuertes Sprachenlernen Im Tandem: Ein Handbuch, edited by Helmut Brammerts and Karin Kleppin, Stauffenburg-Verl., 2001, pp. 9-16.

Burridge, Nina, and Andrew Chodkiewicz. “An Historical Overview of Aboriginal Education Policies in the Australian Context.” Indigenous Education: A Learning Journey for Teachers, Schools and Communities, edited by Nina Burridge et al. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers, 2012, pp. 11-21.

Chaudron, Craig. “A Descriptive Model of Discourse in the Corrective Treatment of Learner's Errors.” Language Learning, vol. 27, no. 1, 1977, pp. 29-46.

Ciekanski, Maud. “Kompetenzentwicklung im Sprachtandem: Bilanz und Perspektiven einer empirischen Untersuchung im Rahmen der binationalen Kurse des deutsch-französischen Jugendaustauschs.” Kompetenzentwicklung durch das Lernen im Tandem: Akteure, Ressourcen, Ausbildung: Eine deutsch-französische Studie, no. 29, 2017, pp. 9-47.

Ciekanski, Maud, and Karin Kleppin. “Über die Ausbildung von Tandemkursleitenden: Von der Bestandsaufnahme zu Perspektiven.” Kompetenzentwicklung durch das Lernen im Tandem: Akteure, Ressourcen, Ausbildung: Eine deutsch-französische Studie, no. 29, 2017, pp. 137-148.

Collins, Brian A., and María Cioè-Peña. “Declaring Freedom: Translanguaging in the Social Studies Classroom to Understand Complex Texts.” Translanguaging With Multilingual Students: Learning from Classroom Moments, edited by Ofelia García and Tatyana Kleyn, Routledge, 2016, pp. 118-139.

Commonwealth of Australia, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Closing the Gap Prime Minister’s Report 2018. 2018,

Cook, Vivian. “Premises of Multi-competence.” The Cambridge Handbook of Linguistic Multi-competence, edited by Vivian Cook and Li Wei, Cambridge University Press, 2016, pp. 1-25.

Council of Europe. Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment (CEFR). Cambridge University Presse, 2018, framework-reference-languages. Accessed 2 Mar. 2019.

Dewilde, Joke. Multilingual Young People as Writers in a Global Age.”2020-01-16T16:30:00 New Perspectives on Translanguaging and Education, edited by BethAnne Paulsrud, Jenny Rosén, Boglárka Straszer and Åsa Wedin, Bristol, Multilingual Matters, 2017, pp. 56-71.

Du Bois, John W. “The Stance Triangle.” Stancetaking in Discourse: Subjectivity, Evaluation, Interaction, edited by Robert Englebretson, Benjamins, 2007, pp. 139-182.

Duguid, Charles. No Dying Race. Adelaide, Rigby Limited, 1963.

Ebe, Ann E, and Charene Chapman-Santiago. “Student Voices Shining Through: Exploring Translanguaging as a Literary Device.” Translanguaging With Multilingual Students: Learning from Classroom Moments, edited by Ofelia García and Tatyana Kleyn, Routledge, 2016, pp. 57-82.

Eckerth, Johannes. Fremdsprachenerwerb in aufgabenbasierten Interaktionen. Tübingen, Gunter Narr, 2003.

Endangered Languages Project. University of Hawai'i Manoa, Accessed 5 Mar 2019.

Freire, Paulo. Pädagogik der Unterdrückten: Bildung als Praxis der Freiheit. Translated by Werner Simpfendörfer, Reinbek bei Hamburg, Rowohlt, 1973.

Gale, Mary-Anne. Dhaŋum Djorra'wuy Dhäwu: a History of Writing in Aboriginal Languages. Underdale, Aboriginal Research Institute University of South Australia, 1997.

García, Ofelia, and Tatyana Kleyn. “Translanguaging Theory in Education.” Translanguaging With Multilingual Students: Learning from Classroom Moments, edited by Ofelia García and Tatyana Kleyn, Routledge, 2016, pp. 9-33.

García, Ofelia, and Tatyana Kleyn. “A Translanguaging Education Policy.” Translanguaging With Multilingual Students: Learning from Classroom Moments, edited by Ofelia García and Tatyana Kleyn, Routledge, 2016, pp. 181-201.

García, Ofelia, and Li Wei. Translanguaging: Language, Bilingualism and Education. Palgrave Macmillan, 2014.

Hickling-Hudson, Anne, and Roberta Ahlquist. “Contesting the Curriculum in theSchooling of Indigenous Children in Australia and the United States: From Eurocentrism to Culturally Powerful Pedagogies.” Comparative Education Review, vol. 47, no. 1, 2003, pp. 64-89.

Jacob, James W., et al., editors. “Global Review of Indigenous Education: Issues of Identity, Culture, and Language.” Indigenous Education: Language, Culture and Identity. Heidelberg, Springer, 2015, pp. 1-35.

Kleppin, Karin. “Der Beitrag des Tandemlernens für die Entwicklung derMehrsprachigkeit.” Europäisches Jahr der Sprachen: Mehrsprachigkeit in Europa, edited by Armin Wolff and Martin Lange, Fachverband für Deutsch als Fremdsprache, 2002, pp. 165-177.

Kohn, Kurt. “From ELF Communication to Lingua Franca Pedagogy.” English as a Lingua Franca: Perspectives and Prospects: Contributions in Honour of Barbara Seidlhofer, edited by Marie-Luise Pitzl and Ruth Osimk-Teasdale, De Gruyter Mouton, 2016, pp. 87-96.

Lyster, Roy, and Leila Ranta. “Corrective Feedback and Learner Uptake: Negotiation of Form in Communicative Classrooms.” Studies in Second Language Acquisition, no. 19, 1997, pp. 37-66.

Marmion, Doug, et al. Community, Identity, Wellbeing: The Report of the Second National Indigenous Languages Survey. Canberra, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, 2014.

Mary, Latisha, and Andrea S.Young. From silencing to translanguaging: Turning the tide to support emergent bilinguals in transition from home to pre-school.” New Perspectives on Translanguaging and Education, edited by BethAnne Paulsrud, Jenny Rosén, Boglárka Straszer and Åsa Wedin, Bristol, Multilingual Matters, 2017, pp. 108-128.

McCarty, Teresa, and Sheilah E. Nicholas. “Indigenous education: local and global perspectives.” The Routledge Handbook of Multilingualism, edited by Marilyn Martin-Jones et al., Routledge, 2012, pp. 145-166.

McPhillips, Steven. Living Archive of Aboriginal Languages. Version 1.0.0, Australian Research Council, Accessed 3 March 2019.

Perso, Thelma F. Cultural Responsiveness and School Education: With Particular Focus on Australia’s First Peoples; A Review & Synthesis of the Literature. Darwin, Australia, Menzies School of Health Research, Centre for Child Development and Education, Darwin Northern Territory, 2012.

Piller, Ingrid. “Intercultural Communication: An overview.” The Handbook of Intercultural Discourse and Communication, edited by Christina Bratt Paulston et al., John Wiley & Sons, 2012, pp. 3-18.

Reconciliation Australia. Reconciliation Australia BHP Foundation, 2017, Accessed 2 Mar. 2019.

Schurmann, E. I'd Rather Dig Potatoes: Clamor Schürmann and the Aborigines of South Australia, 1833-1853. Lutheran Publishing House, 1987.

Strehlow, T. G. H. Dark and White Australians. Riall Bros, 1957.

---. Assimilation Problems: The Aboriginal Viewpoint. Specialty Printers, 1964.

Telfer, E. J. “Amongst Australian Aborigines: Forty Years of Missionary Work: The Story of The United Aborigines’ Mission”. Fraser & Morphet, 1939.

Haut de page


1 As Burridge et al. have clarified: “The term “Indigenous” is the preferred term used by Commonwealth government agencies when referring to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, policies, programs and activities.” (7). In keeping with this use, I have chosen to capitalise the term, also as a form of showing respect. However, in most international research, including documents issued but the United Nations, there is no capitalisation (Jacob et al. 2).

2 My translation for : « école véritablement multi-inter-transculturelle » (Akkari and Broyon 17).

Haut de page

Pour citer cet article

Référence électronique

Christiane Charon, « Student-educator Tandem in the Pedagogy of Endangered Languages in Australia », Recherche et pratiques pédagogiques en langues de spécialité [En ligne], Vol. 39 N°1 | 2020, mis en ligne le 15 janvier 2020, consulté le 12 juillet 2020. URL : ; DOI :

Haut de page


Christiane Charon

Christiane Charon travaille actuellement en tant que Cheffe du Département des Langues à l'Ecole Internationale de Genève. Après avoir obtenu ses diplômes en anglais langue étrangère, FLE et Littérature Comparée en Allemagne et en France, sa carrière pédagogique l'a conduite de l'Allemagne au Guatemala, par l'Australie, la Nouvelle Zélande, la Malaisie, Singapour et la Suisse. Son intérêt pour la pédagogie des langues en voie de disparition est né à la suite de son travail comme coordinatrice professeur linguiste dans la ville de Wadeye, dans le Territoire du Nord en Australie. Actuellement, elle poursuit des études de doctorat à l'Université La Sorbonne Nouvelle – Paris 3.

Haut de page

Droits d’auteur

Tous droits réservés

Haut de page