1. Globalization and its impact on
language policy in Timor-Leste
Prepared by : Pedro Ximenes
Presented at :
Post Graduate conference
Flinders University, School of Education
Adelaide, 23 June 2014
2. Key Questions
What cultural aspects/forces shape the current
language policy in Timor-Leste ?
How was the current language policy established,
planned and implemented?
What are the cultural and educational issues with the
current language policy?
What are alternative solutions to the current language
3. Outline :
II. How globalization shaped language development in Timor-
III. Language policy and Planning in Timor Leste
IV. The impact of the language policy in Timor-Leste Context
V. Alternative Solutions
4. I. Introduction
According to constitution :
2 Official Languages (Tetum and Portugues)
2 Working languages (English and Melayu/Bahasa Indonesia)
16 Indigenous languages
Demographic and Socio economic condition
Total Area : 18,874 Sq Km
1.1 Million of population, with 62 % aged below 25 (CIA, 2014)
Adult literacy rate 58,3 %
70 % population live in rural area (inadequate social facility
Poverty is a big issue
5. Hello, How are you ?. My name is Pedro
Ola, Como esta ?. Chamo me Pedro (Iberian
Olá, como você está. Eu sou Pedro (Brasilian
Hallo, Diak Ka lae ?. Hau nia naran Pedro .
Halo, Apa Kabar ? . Nama saya Pedro .
6. II. How globalization shaped language
development in Timor-Leste ?
Holton’s (2000) typology of globalization :
1) The homogenization stage with linguistic imperialism.
2) The hybridization can be seen in the adoption of various
languages existing in Timor-Leste into State policy.
3) The rise of the Mother tongue based education as the
alternative bridging into the teaching of Portuguese and English as
the second (L2) and third language (L3) during the primary
education as polarization phase.
7. III. Language policy and Planning in Timor Leste
Kaplan and Baldauf (1997) “deliberate, future-oriented systematic
change of language code, use and/or speaking most visibly
undertaken by government in some community of speakers.
Language planning is directed by, or leads to, the promulgation of
a language policy(ies) – by government or another authoritative
body or person.”
Language policy planning (Kaplan & Baldauf, 1997) involves:
Status planning (which concerns the uses of language),
Corpus planning (which concerns the structure of language),
Acquisition planning (which concerns the users of language),
Prestige planning (which concerns the image of the language)
8. Status Planning
Lo Bianco (1989, p. 99), one of the characteristic results of
status planning is laws and clauses in constitutions prescribing
the official standing of languages and regulations for their use
in public administration.
The national constitution sets the basic rules for status
planning. Under Article 13, it specifies two official languages,
Tetum (vernacular language) and Portuguese, while requiring
the state to ‘value and develop Tetum and the other national
Further in article 159 Indonesian and English are considered as
working languages within civil service side by side with official
languages as long as deemed necessary’ (p. 63).
9. Corpus Planning
Haugen’s (1983) corpus planning consisted of the
policy/form-oriented goal of codification and the
cultivation/function- oriented goal of elaboration
Codification refers to the selection and standardization of a
“graphisation”, or the development of a system of writing and
“grammatication”, or the development of a standard grammar,
“lexication”, or the development of a standard lexicon and
10. Corpus Planning in Timor-Leste
Tetum one of the co-official languages was still an
endogenous language used more as a verbal language with no
set of standardization.
Portuguese was the only official language with
standardization. However no variant wasn’t decided.
English and Indonesian.(There are no specific provision as to
version and language rules to be used).
11. Prestige Planning
“enhancement of the prestige of a language” through its use
in higher domains (Lo Bianco, 2004, p. 743).
Ager (2001) referred to this process as “image creation”.
Image creation plays a central role in identity construction.
In the civil service, the reintroduction of Portuguese and the
introduction of Tetum is conducted in accordance to law
8/2004, which came into force on 16 July .
Obligation of public servants to use the official languages as the
languages of the public service
The National Institute of Languages (NIL) with the mission of
oversee all language-oriented research (including language-in-
education projects, interpreting and translating and teaching
English as a second language) carried out within the national
12. Acquisition Planning
(Kaplan & Baldauf, 1997) define as “ Language in education
Inconsistencies in Language in education policy
2000-20004; focused exclusively on the rapid reintroduction of
Portuguese in a submersion schooling model with Portuguese as the
sole language of instruction from grade 1-6.
2005 Tetum became medium of instruction in the first two years of
In 2008 the government enacted a new base law for education
(Law14/2008) that established The Education system framework.
The new law also establishes Tetum and Portuguese as the teaching
language of East Timorese education system
The National Education Strategic Plan (NESP) 2011–2015 “.. all
children should excel in both national official languages and learn
the fundamentals to understand English, their first foreign
13. IV The impact of the language policy in Timor-Leste
Poor educational achievement
Low adult literacy rate in Portuguese
Ethnographic study by Macpherson (2011)
“Children commonly described Portuguese as “too hard” and took
every opportunity to practice their English. Teachers conducting
Portuguese classes using Tetum as the medium of instruction would
quickly make a popular switch into an English lesson when a visitor
was discovered to speak English. Parents schooled in Indonesian
indicated that Portuguese was far less useful as a trading language
than Bahasa, and not as “international” as English given the
imminent arrival of the internet and opportunities offered in
Australia. School directors and teachers explained in Tetun and
Bahasa that they resented attending mandatory professional
development workshops in Portuguese after school hours”.
14. IV The impact of the language policy in
Early Grade Reading Acquisition (EGRA)
“More than 70% of students at the end of grade 1 could not read a
single word of the simple text passage. 40% of children were not
able to read a single word at the end of grade 2; and the share of
children scoring zero dropped to about 20% at the end of grade 3.
The assessment provides clear evidence that many children spend
years in primary schools in Timor‐Leste without learning to read”
15. V. Alternative Solutions
The Use of Mother tongue in Multilingual education.
Mother tongues are the home languages of leaners, also known as “first
language” or L1 (even where there are two or more home languages).
Moving from the known to the unknown
It seeks to create an educational system that : builds on what learners
know, facilitates beginning literacy, supports learners’ identity formation,
makes learning relevant and enjoyable, links generations in continued
learning, encourages collaboration between teachers and families.
The design is to start the teaching of student in their 0 year (pre-school)
and year 1 in their mother tongues (L1) covering beginning literacy
(reading and writing) and curricular content (maths, science and history).
One or more new languages (L2,L3) in the case of Timor leste Tetum and
Portuguese are taught systematically, beginning with oral communication,
so that learners can transfer literacy and knowledge from familiar
language to the new language
16. The amendment of the constitution
Constitution is not a “bible”, if the situation dictates then it
should be amended
Section 154 (constitutional revision) and 155 (Approval and
promulgation) of the constitution gives way to the revision of
English should be given more weight then Portuguese
English is now the most widely used language in the world, it is
the official language of almost 60 sovereign states in the world
Many developed and developing countries consider English
language education as a means to further their economic
advantages within the global market (Nunan, 2003).
Countries with higher levels of English-language skills also have
stronger economies, and their citizens enjoy higher per capita
income (GNI per capita) levels and quality of life (HDI).
(2013EF’s English Proficiency Index)
17. VI. Conclusion
The Language Policy in Timor-Leste is a product of
Globalization in language area, with the influence from
The language policy in Timor-Leste has been subject to
inconsistencies and mismatch between the policy maker
and grassroots level of users.
The current language policy has impacted negatively on
the educational achievement.
The current language policy needs to be revised or
adjusted reflecting current situation
Ager, D. (2001). Motivation in language planning. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
Holton, Robert. (2000). Globalization's Cultural Consequences. The ANNALS of the American Academy
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Central Intelligence Agency. (2014). The World Fackbook : Timor-Leste. Retrieved from
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Haugen, E. (1983). The implementation of corpus planning theory and practice. In J. Cobarrubias &
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Government of Timor-Leste. (2010 October 22). 2010 Census results: Timor-Leste's population grows
slower than projected. Retrieved May 3, 2011, from http://timor-leste.gov.tl/?p=4144&n=1&lang=en
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