Colóquio Internacional TLSA-PT

Timor-Leste:A Ilha e o Mundo

7 a 11 de setembro 2020Colóquio Online

Tetun akadémiku: University lecturers’ role in the intellectualisation of Tetum

Trent Newman University of Melbourne (UniMelb), AUSTRALIA

In this paper, I examine lecturers’ attitudes toward the use of Tetun for academic, scientific and vocational communication at university in Timor-Leste. Drawing on analysis of recorded discussions among university lecturers from different disciplinary areas and distinct institutional settings, I identify a range of discursive and ideological forces being brought to bear on the use of Tetun to communicate disciplinary and professional knowledge. I focus especially on lecturers’ value-laden explanations for how and why they ‘mix’ Tetun with Portuguese, English and Indonesian in particular contexts of classroom communication. Lecturers’ statements about the limitations of Tetun for academic and scientific communication, while grounded in the real need for coordinated intellectualisation of the language, also mask lecturers’ individual preferences for (and greater confidence in) the use of these other languages in academic domains, which stem from their own past experiences of language socialisation. I argue that such negative beliefs from lecturers about the capabilities of Tetun to function as a language of disciplinary communication both reflect the need to ‘intellectualise’ Tetun and also operate as potent discourses at work against coordinated efforts towards such intellectualisation. At the same time, more ‘organic’, individual efforts towards the intellectualisation of Tetun endure, as evidenced by some lecturers’ positive accounts of innovative translation and translanguaging work; efforts that require greater attention and support. I conclude with a discussion about the need to recognise and value the expertise and contributions of multiple stakeholders in the development and intellectualisation of the Tetun language, including those who are not traditionally understood as ‘language experts’.