Jade Jones

Jade Jones

As a Bachelor of Arts student majoring in linguistics, Jade Jones studies two languages. Both are official languages of two of Australia's closest neighbours: the first, Indonesian, needs no introduction to most people; Jade's second language, however, often raises eyebrows when she tells other people.

"Most of the time when I say I learn Tetum, people don't even know what it is. It's definitely overlooked and underrated," she said.

Tetum, also known as Tetun, is the official language of Timor-Leste. With around half a million speakers in Timor-Leste and Indonesian, the language has many loanwords from Portuguese and Malay.

ANU is the only Australian university that offers Tetum, with the language taught entirely online.

Jade studied Indonesian throughout middle and high school. She wanted to continue her language studies at university, noting that her decision to minor in Tetum was motivated by the desire to "step completely out of my comfort zone".

"(Language learning) was definitely something I had interest in. I loved being able to speak to people from other parts of the world. I always thought that was cool and I didn't want it to die. I knew that once you stop studying, it only takes a year or so to forget what you've learned completely," she said.

No stranger to embracing new challenges, Jade's decision to study at ANU required leaving home in the national's geographic centre Alice Springs for its political heart of Canberra.

"I like how much independence I've gained from studying at ANU. Moving two flights away to a town where I didn't have a support network and then making it by myself, has given me more self-confidence," said noted.

While self-motivation is important for any study, it is especially valuable for online language students. Most classes are spent talking directly to the teacher, meaning students need to be well prepared and have a thorough understanding of content week to week.

However, Jade said academic rigour is balanced with the "big bonus" of flexible scheduling.

"Tetum is definitely a niche language. It's very similar, in that regard, to Aboriginal languages. I studied Gamilaroi at ANU for two units and it was the same thing. Nobody knew what it was because it's so small without any media exposure," she said.

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Updated:  24 April, 2017/Responsible Officer:  Dean, ANU College of Asia & the Pacific/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team