The Top End Linguistic Circle (TELC) is an informal association of linguists and other language workers in the ‘Top End’ of the Northern Territory of Australia. It has held a couple of meetings or workshops almost every year since it began in the 1970s. Meetings are organised by local TELC members, often scheduled to enable visiting linguists to give presentations. Visiting linguists doing fieldwork in the top end, or local linguists wanting to share, can contact topendlingcircle@gmail.com if they would like to present at TELC.

TELC is also on social media. You can find us at:

NEXT TELC SEMINAR: 1st March 2023

Time: 1-3pm, Wednesday 1 March 2023

Location: Charles Darwin University, Casuarina campus, Northern Institute, Yellow 1, level 2, room 48 (the Savannah Room). Campus map.


  • 1.00-1.30pm: Mei-Li Fang, “A ‘Performance Approach’: Rapid and Effective Language Teaching and Learning”
  • 1.30pm-2.00pm: David Nathan & Brenda Muthamuluwuy “Revitalising a language … app: new digital resources for Yolŋu languages at Charles Darwin University”
  • 2.00-2.30pm: Angelina Aquino, “Disaster communication, intercultural translation, and language technology: Pathways for two-way learning and participation in Arnhem Land”

After the presentations there is time for networking and sharing updates about what’s happening in the language space around the Top End.

Abstracts and Speaker Biographies

Mei-Li Fang, A ‘Performance Approach’: Rapid and Effective Language Teaching and Learning


The ‘Performance Approach’ (PA) is a methodology for rapid, effective, and predictable language teaching and learning, accountable to learning and teaching goals. While much teaching is sequential, adding content week after week, PA learning takes place in a ‘spiral’, where learners continually revisit and perform what they have learned. It uses meaningful conversation as well as staged drama to transform learners from engaging in ‘production’ to participating in performance. PA method applies an understanding of learners’ diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds and learning goals to providing an ‘ecology’ of syllabus, textbook, learnable content, classroom methods and activities, assessment and evaluation. Drama is a key component and the talk will include video demonstrations of the learning process and learners’ performances.

About the speaker:

Originally from Taiwan, Mei-Li Fang completed her PhD in Linguistics at Ochanomizu University in Japan. She held a Postdoctoral position at the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, and was then Assistant Professor of Japanese at Fu-Jen University in Taiwan, Foreign Professor in Mandarin Chinese at Tsukuba University and Ochanomizu University. She taught Hokkien at Tokyo University of Foreign Studies and at SOAS University of London, and taught Mandarin at Imperial College. She has done fieldwork and published on the endangered language Siraya in Taiwan, and has published on language pedagogy, Japanese and Chinese linguistics, and has produced several language learning texts.

David Nathan & Brenda Muthamuluwuy, Revitalising a language … app: new digital resources for Yolŋu languages at Charles Darwin University


After over 20 years of using the original Gupapuyŋu app to support the Yolŋu Matha language teaching program at Charles Darwin University, changes in technologies, the inclusion of additional Yolŋu languages, and the guidance of Yolŋu philosophies and pedagogies, necessitate the development of an updated language learning app. Our current project, supported by the Commonwealth’s ILA program, combines the experience of the current Yolŋu-led program with one of the longest continually running learning apps for any Indigenous language. The new app is a web-based, open-source, sustainable, multilingual platform catering for today&rquo;s devices, technologies, and the skills and expectations of both Yolŋu and Balanda students.

About the speakers:

David Nathan trained in linguistics, computing, and management. As a researcher at AIATSIS in Canberra he co-authored the world’s first web dictionary, for Gamilaraay (with Peter K. Austin). He has taught computing, linguistics, cognitive science, and multimedia, with publications including the textbook Australia’s Indigenous Languages and papers on archiving, language documentation, audio, internet, and lexicography. As Director of the Endangered Languages Archive at SOAS University of London, his team developed new approaches to archiving digital language documentation and trained a generation of linguists in technologies and methods for documentary linguistics. He recently retired from his position as linguist for the Groote Eylandt Language Centre.

Brenda Muthamuluwuy Muthamuluwuy is a Yolŋu Gupapuyŋu woman originally comes from Galiwin’ku community in North East Arnhemland. After completing her schooling year 12 in 1984, she began working at Arnhem Land Progress Association (ALPA) which was located in Winnellie in Darwin working with G & R Wills. She was then transferred to the Galiwin’ku Community, working at ALPA Community store for several years until 2000. In 2001 she commenced working at Shepherdson College (community school) as Administrator, a position which she held for 12 years . Brenda also worked as the Cultural Supervisor in the school. As a community member she was so passionate to be a role model and work in a leadership role for her Community Elders and the Community. In 2012 she was appointed to apply for coordinator of Mawul Rom Pty Ltd in partnership with Charles Darwin University (CDU) in a Master’s program at CDU until 2015. Brenda is currently an Indigenous lecturer of Indigenous Languages Yolngu Studies in the Faculty of Arts and Society at Charles Darwin University. Lived and worked in Darwin NT. Brenda is a member of the Indigenous Researchers Initiative (IRI) at the Northern Institute (CDU) and is a supporter of the Indigenous Researchers Initiative.

Angelina Aquino, Disaster communication, intercultural translation, and language technology: Pathways for two-way learning and participation in Arnhem Land


The Northern Territory of Australia is prone to many recurring hazards including cyclones, bushfires, and floods. Reducing the impact of such hazards involves the acquisition of knowledge about hazards and risks, the communication of information across robust channels, the formation of measures for risk reduction and response, and the mobilization of people to enact these measures.

In the Arnhem region, Indigenous (Bininj) knowledge practices for disaster risk reduction exist alongside external (Balanda) emergency management processes. But these traditions have largely developed independent of one another, and long-standing issues of empowerment and trust as well as linguistic and socio-cultural barriers have made communication and mutual understanding between these circles particularly challenging. These issues have been addressed in other domains through established approaches of two-way learning and participation, and we believe that these approaches hold similar promise for building intercultural capacity around disaster.

In this project, we aim to find pathways for Bininj and Balanda to work together towards improved disaster communication, under the framework of participatory action research. We seek to translate knowledge practices both ways: from Bininj to Balanda, by constructing a grounded theory about disaster in Bininj communities; and from Balanda to Bininj, by co-designing technological means to support local disaster communication. Through these research activities, we hope to promote ongoing engagement between Bininj and Balanda actors in disaster management, and in doing so strengthen the foundations for sustainable change.

About the speaker:

Angelina Aquino is a Ph.D. student in the Northern Institute at Charles Darwin University. She obtained her M.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of the Philippines Diliman, where she investigated and co-advised projects on speech processing, machine translation, and linguistic analysis for Philippine languages. She is broadly interested in pursuing interdisciplinary research that supports local knowledge transmission, Indigenous governance, and community-led design.

Last modified 22nd February 2023