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The legacy of Portuguese colonialism is evident in modern-day Timor-Leste, and frequently discussed in terms of language policy. When Timor-Leste became independent in 2002 one of the decisions that needed to be made involved languages. In addition to many indigenous languages, three foreign languages also had to be considered – Bahasa Indonesia, Portuguese, and English. In this talk I will begin by describing the Timorese linguistic ecology and explaining the decisions made around languages in the new constitution. However, official language policy is not always reflected in language use. In order to gauge the effectiveness of language policy in Timor-Leste I will then draw on two studies of the same linguistic landscape in Dili, the capital city. Conducted more than a decade apart, the data from these studies allows insights into the implementation of the language policy, language practices, and expressions of national identity over time.


John Macalister is Emeritus Professor of Applied Linguistics at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. His teaching and research have spanned the breadth of the field, from language learning & teaching to language policy & linguistic landscapes. He co-edited Multilingual Memories: Monuments, museums and the linguistic landscape (Bloomsbury) with Professor Robert Blackwood. He is a former President of Applied Linguistics in Aotearoa New Zealand (ALANZ) and is the New Zealand English consultant for the Oxford English Dictionary.