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In the following article I will discuss the difficulties encountered when learning english in East Timor. There are two angles from which I will approach this topic, the first consisting of the cultural and historical identity of East Timor. I will analyse how this affects education, available resources, and impacts upon individual people and their ability to learn. The second subject I will focus on is problematic grammar and phonetics, due to the differences in english, and East Timor's official languages, Portuguese, and Tetum. A foreseeable problem for students learning english in East Timor is the confusion between the Nations split identities. Due to past conflict, many outside influences have shaped local language, leaving huge inconsistencies. Whilst I believe this can cause problems, I also think it may be a huge drive for students to learn english. East Timor gained independence in 1999, after 450 years of foreign rule, and has since
been under the administration of the United Nations. It is estimated that around 200, 000 people died as a result of indonesia's violent occupation, of what used to be Portuguese territory. Many families were displaced, communities wiped out, the economic infrastructure fell, and basic resources were unobtainable. Education facilities were lost, and are still in the process of being re-built. Over 50% of the population now live in poverty. It is important we take this into consideration when dealing with the problems this may incur when learning english. With such destruction in recent years, facilities for teaching are lacking. There are a shortage of schools, teaching resources, basic necessities such as clean water and healthcare etc, and a shortage of educated people to teach the younger generation. This results in students who have nowhere to learn, other problems far greater than verbs to contend with, health issues, poor literacy, and broken speech in their own language. New facilities have been built, but many families are too poor to be able to afford education. Learning is disrupted due to financial
issues, with many young people having to drop their studies to work. Residents of East Timor have lost family and friends due to the violence in recent years. The affect this has had on individuals must be brutal, and students may be lacking confidence and trust. english teachers need to offer an environment that is secure, safe, and inspiring. Cultural issues that may disrupt learning consist of a) gender inequalities; where in the past the education of men was more important than women. b) Students of the younger generation appearing enthusiastic to learn english; though if they are replacing other education to achieve this, they may be lacking in a variety of skills required to help re-build their country. It is important to work english into the education system, and not to dominate it. In the past several languages have been introduced into East Timor. The official languages are Portuguese and Tetum. The
two are very similar. For the purpose of this report I will point out the differences between english and Portuguese, to establish where error may occur in learning english. Differences in grammar are: 1) questions in Portuguese are expressed by intonation. Students may inquire “you like me?” instead of “Do you like me?” 2) The use of double negatives in Portuguese leads to sentences such as “I don't know nothing.” 3) Many students also struggle with tenses. Problems with phonetics occur due to fewer consonant sounds and clusters. This can
result in not being able to hear the unstressed vowels at the end of a word, failure to distinguish minimal pairs, problems with diphthongs, and more. In conclusion to this article, there are many problems that face the Timorese english student. The recent history of the country, the culture, and the availability of resources etc; are obstacles that will affect each student differently. These problems must be considered and addressed when teaching students, to ensure they, as individuals and as a nation, can use their skills towards a brighter future. Problems will also arise in the learning of english, through differences in Portuguese and english grammar and phonetic pronunciation.
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