So I just finished seven days’ worth of Tetum classes. Unfortunately, although I can now say very confidently ‘Hau nia naran Kate. Hau hosi Australia’ (My name is Kate. I am from Australia) and converse at length about my thirst and hunger, I am not much closer to being able to house-hunt in Tetum, which is my most pressing language need at the moment. Some Timorese people do have a bit of English, but most know Bahasa Indonesia (besides, of course, Dili Tetum), so this means I resort to Bahasa a lot.
I learnt Bahasa for about ten years on and off – from year 6, a few years in high school and then I accidentally ended up majoring in it at uni – so although I am rusty, it’s coming back quickly. We were watching an English-language TV show that had Indonesian subtitles the other night, and I realised that I could read the subtitles. Not just bits of them, but all of them (enough to surprise Matt by laughing randomly at poor translations).
Unfortunately I have been kind of lazy, and every time I am home, I forget to look up the words I wanted that day. My conversations with Timorese people about houses must sound like the oddest broken English to them. The other unfortunate thing (that is actually unfortunate, as opposed to being something I can fix) is that I’ve always been better at understanding written language than spoken, but I need to speak it more than I need to read it at the moment. Ah well.
On the bright side, I packed my beloved Kamus Bahasa (the big purple dictionary pair that everyone who studies Indo gets in the end), so they’re here for when I get not-lazy; and the Tetum textbook is very good. So I expect to be able to teach myself a lot of Tetum. Mrs Sheridan (high school Indo teacher) would be very proud of me.