April 20th, 2007

East Timorese learning Finnish? The article says Finnish is a neutral language, unlike Portuguese, English and Bahasa Indonesia, which all relate to the colonial past (English? Does the UN administration that followed the Indonesian pullout count as a colonial regime?) and apparently Tetum, the original local language, “has a fairly primitive grammar and thanks to eight or nine different tribal dialects, even this language does not unite the population.” I’m not sure if the “primitive” grammar is included with the dialects as a barrier to unity or not…. Anyway, eight or nine different tribal dialects does not sound like a particularly big barrier to unity. Should be fairly easy to come up with a national standard, especially with a “primitive” grammar. Anyway, if a foreign language has to be imported, why the hell would you choose Finnish? It’s spoken in only one country, and even if you include closely related languages spoken in Finland’s neighbours, you still come up with a pretty small number. Include all the Finno-Ugric languages and it still doesn’t look particularly useful….. And besides, doesn’t Finnish have a million cases? If you really need to import a foreign language to avoid the old colonial languages and Tetum’s “primitive” grammar and ginormous number of tribal dialects, why would you leap to something far more complex? And with such a small place in the world?

Might I suggest French and Spanish would be better choices: Closely related to Portuguese, so no big deal for the older people, and not too distant from English, so no big deal for the young ones, no huge case system, and widely spoken around the world, therefore very useful.

And yes, I’ll admit, I no bugger all about Finnish. The grammar may well be far simpler than I have been led to believe. But still- why Finnish?

And I’m not sure when this article was published, or where.

via languagehat

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