Lusophonization returns? The condition of language policy and planning in a post-colonial plurilingual Timor-Leste
da Silva Sarmento, J. (2013). Lusophonization returns? The condition of language policy and planning in a post-colonial plurilingual Timor-Leste (Thesis, Master of Arts (Applied) (MA(Applied))). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/7902
Permanent Research Commons link: https://hdl.handle.net/10289/7902
The present study examines the national language policy and language in education policy in Timor-Leste, a post-colonial nation that has adopted an exogenous language (Portuguese) and an autochthonous language (Tétun) to be its official languages, and two exogenous languages (Indonesian and English) as working languages. Based on an analysis of the findings, it argues that there is convincing evidence that both the policies are moving towards assimilationist exclusionary monolingual Portuguese model. It was originally intended to investigate the use of languages in three senior high schools in Timor-Leste. However, due to logistical and administrative reasons, the study did not eventuate as planned. Instead, the researcher interviewed 13 key informants from parliamentarians, ministry of education officers, high school directors and teachers, as well as government and non-governmental organizations officers, both in Díli, Timor-Leste and subsequently in Hamilton, New Zealand. The objective of the interviews was to gather data on the interviewees’ perspectives on the current national language policy and language policy in education. The study found that the debate of national language policy and its implementation, as well as implications, in educational domains is still vibrant and therefore far from over. The data from the interviewees showed that even some politicians did not agree with the current national language policy, saying that Timor-Leste should only use Tétun at the moment and keep Portuguese for the future. It was also said that there was no time frame apportioned in the implementation of the national language policy and therefore there was a rush toward Portuguese monolingual policy with the risk of devaluing Tétun and other national languages at the same time. While there was a bulk data from interviewees showed that there is an imperative for the development of Tétun to improve its status planning, the language was viewed not politically and financially supported to develop, which some earlier studies had called the state of affair more symbolic than substantial. The language in education policy to use Portuguese as a mandated medium of instruction and Tétun simply to function an auxiliary role posed real challenges to education sector in Timor-Leste. High school principals and teachers complained about the use of Portuguese as medium of instruction and Tétun functions as auxiliary language because in the front line they found out that more than 80% of teachers were not qualified to teach that the majority of the teachers obtained their education in Indonesian, which means that they hardly use Portuguese to teach. There was a mismatch of idealized language policy and reality of language planning and therefore some teachers even said that they had to write their lesson plans in Indonesian, used Google translation to translate them into Portuguese to be used later to transfer knowledge to their students. For ease of students’ understanding, they had to and normally use Tétun, even Indonesian, to explain the content of their teachings. Lack of essential pedagogic materials also mentioned to be complicating the issue. Both principals and teachers suggested that teaching materials had to be provided in accordance with language policy in education, i.e. to be both in Portuguese and Tétun. For professional development of teacher, it was learned that sending teachers away to attend basic Portuguese courses was not sufficient in equipping the teachers to be effective and efficient teachers unless they were given specific training based on their subjects and continued tutoring at their workplaces. The study also explored the extent to which the data from interviewees, and accidentally one classroom observation, indicated degree of plurilingualism in Timor-Leste. The preliminary data showed that at least three languages were used in an interview sessions, with the most four languages used, reflecting the existence of plurilingualism in the country.
University of Waikato
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