Now that the end of formal Tetun approaches, one can reflect on some of the forthcoming issues.
Firstly, not everyone in Timor Leste speaks Tetun. There are about 33 different languages. Tetun is but one of them. Although it is spoken in a number of areas, there are many local variations and local accents which may make it appear different anyway.
Tetun also comes in a number of forms – Tetun Prasa (also known as Tetun Dili and Tetun Franca), Tetun Terik, Tetun Loos and Tetun Classic. It is for another day to ponder the similarities and differences between them. At this stage, it is fair to assume that although there is a familiar core, there are differences in both vocabulary and grammar.
While Tetun Terik, Tetun Loos and Tetun Classic use pure Tetun words, Tetun Prasa includes a liberal spray of Portuguese and Indonesian. And just to complete the spray, it appears it is up to the speaker to decide just how much of these other 2 languages to include. As a student with little Portuguese or Indonesian knowledge, this can be confusing.
Although it could be said that Tetun is fairly easy to learn, it does suffer from a lack of high quality learning materials and a lack of freely available written material to supplement this. There is only 1 Tetun news source on the internet and we have used this in class as study material. It takes about 5 seconds to realise that the standard of Tetun is not high, with a casual regard to grammar, spelling and amount of Portuguese or Indonesian spray.
As for other texts available for reading, there is the Timor-Leste Constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Bible. Choices, choices … not.
Me thinks that Tetun will not have made it until Herge’s Adventures of TinTin is published in pure Tetun.