Languages, Communication and National Identity in Timor-Leste
Emanuel Braz Faculdade de Ciências Sociais - Universidade Nacional de Timor Lorosa'e (FCS-UNTL), TIMOR-LESTE
This paper presents the results of a qualitative research study on communication, national identity and the language situation of Timor-Leste by the author. Language narratives are a sensitive topic since Timor-Leste became a sovereign nation-station in 2002, marking the end of close to 500 years of colonial rule, the end of 24 years of military occupation and the end of three-years of United Nations international administration. These different types of foreign rule over the Timorese left marked indentations in the indigenous language ecology of the nation. Through this paper, the respondents of Braz (2015) study answer back with their own insights about the place for the local, official, working and international languages and the way in which they must coexist in contemporary Timor-Leste. For the Timorese, languages are not the issue, in fact the ability of the Timorese to speak and operate in a diverse language ecology is considered part of the natural wealth of Timor-Leste. Nevertheless, language has also been the instrumental tool by which the non-indigenous ‘Other’ has attempted to exert dominance over the Timorese throughout history. The study also reveals the Timorese is fully aware of this and has sought refuge and strength in its own national languages to be able to self-preserve culturally over the centuries and that have enabled the Timorese to emerge with a strong sense of national identity, a process of being that began as soon as the Timorese felt her or his own existentialism was under threat.
Keywords: Indigenous languages; Portuguese language; national identity; Timor-Leste