CG Teichelmann was a Lutheran missionary who migrated from Germany to Australia in 1838 in response to a call from Pastor Kavel and George Fife Angas for missionaries to the Aboriginal people. He arrived in Adelaide in October of that year with a fellow missionary, Clamor Schurmann and together they established the first school for Aboriginal people in South Australia, on the banks of the River Torrens.
In 1840 they published Outlines of a Grammar: Vocabulary and Phraseology of the Aboriginal Language of South Australia, Spoken by the Natives in and for Some Distance Around Adelaide, a book which includes over 2000 words from the tribe of the Adelaide Plains (now known as Kaurna language).
Aboriginal languages have become endangered since European contact which began in earnest with white settlement in 1788. It is estimated that at this time there were over 250 different Aboriginal Languages in use. Aboriginal people were forced to speak English in order to receive rations, to go to school, and to have some way of defending their rights. The removal of children from their parents by Government organisations and religious missions also meant that traditional languages were not passed on to children.
Resources such as Teichelmann's work have become vital today in the revivification of endangered Aboriginal languages, in combination with the use of word lists collated by early explorers, anthropologists, teachers and travellers. They are used in conjunction with modern recording practices and working with Community Elders and knowledgeable academics to create dictionaries, CDs and picture books of traditional words, phraseology and punctuation.
An example of such a work is the Kaurna Alphabet Book, complied by Cherie Watkins and Mary-Anne Gale with linguistic advice from Dr Rob Amery of the University of Adelaide. Such illustrative word lists introduce traditional terms to young people to keep the language, and therefore the culture, active.
Teichelmann was also known as an advocate for the difficulties faced by Aboriginal people under the new South Australian colony. His skills as a student of Aboriginal languages led to his appointment as government interpreter in 1840. In addition to vocabularies, Teichelmann recorded other aspects of Aboriginal Culture including social customs and religious practices.