Brazil's role in East Timor and teaching Portuguese

Tuesday, June 09, 2009


There's a fairly long article here that Page F30 readers will definitely be interested in taking a look at, which explains the linguistic situation in East Timor better than I could. Though Portuguese as an official language in East Timor is often derided as a colonial remnant or a poor choice (considering that the only areas nearby where Portuguese is spoken are Macau, Goa and parts of Japan), it's also worth remembering that the Tetum language has been so influenced by Portuguese that it's actually not as hard to learn as one might expect. If you know Portuguese then take a look at the Tetum Wikipedia to see how much you can understand.

Apparently the late Brazilian governor Sérgio Vieira de Mello gained a great deal of respect in the country by learning Tetum. Perhaps those interested in promoting Portuguese in East Timor (and thus Brazil/Portugal/East Timor relations) would be able to help by learning enough Tetum to contribute to their Wikipedia. Or perhaps by adding Tetum words to the Portuguese Wiktionary (just a bit under 1000 Tetum words exist there now).

The article also berates Portuguese speakers and Brazil itself for being too tame in promoting Portuguese.

4 comments:

Antonielly said...

That is right. Most Brazilians don't know anything about Timor Leste and about Indonesia. And the Brazilian government does not make any serious effort to promote the Portuguese language around the world.

That's why one of the most spoken languages in the world is not internationally respected. And this is a shame.

Septem Trionis said...

On the other hand, I think the Portuguese government relies too much on the "Lusofonia" concept, that is, marketing Portuguese as a world language spoken in America (Brazil), Africa and Asia (Macau and Timor Leste) (!!) I live in Galicia so Portuguese is straightforward for me, so Galician-speakers also benefit from this "Lusofonia" concept. Sadly enough, other than Brazil, Portuguese is just an official language, often used in education, which people in lusophone countries may not know at all. I've just browsed the Tetum wikipedia and I don't find it to be any easier to read than any other Romance-language "inspired" languages. There may be many Portuguese borrow words, maybe the grammar is simple, but overall I can't make a sense just directly without futher prior knoledge. There are many words that look pretty obvious (siénsia for science), and many other certainly look like Portuguese (ie "envolvidus iha peskiza astronómika "), but there are also many words that I can not easily relate to other languages.

Septem Trionis said...

On the other hand, I think the Portuguese government relies too much on the "Lusofonia" concept, that is, marketing Portuguese as a world language spoken in America (Brazil), Africa and Asia (Macau and Timor Leste) (!!) I live in Galicia so Portuguese is straightforward for me, so Galician-speakers also benefit from this "Lusofonia" concept. Sadly enough, other than Brazil, Portuguese is just an official language, often used in education, which people in lusophone countries may not know at all. I've just browsed the Tetum wikipedia and I don't find it to be any easier to read than any other Romance-language "inspired" languages. There may be many Portuguese borrow words, maybe the grammar is simple, but overall I can't make a sense just directly without futher prior knoledge. There are many words that look pretty obvious (siénsia for science), and many other certainly look like Portuguese (ie "envolvidus iha peskiza astronómika "), but there are also many words that I can not easily relate to other languages.

Antonielly said...

That is right. Most Brazilians don't know anything about Timor Leste and about Indonesia. And the Brazilian government does not make any serious effort to promote the Portuguese language around the world.

That's why one of the most spoken languages in the world is not internationally respected. And this is a shame.

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