A few years ago, Marist Brother Peter Corr fms took a six-week crash course to learn Spanish, resulting in mixed success. 'I learnt a lot of words, but no complete sentences,' said the 63-year-old headmaster of Marist College North Shore.
- The Catholic Weekly
Now Br Peter is preparing himself for the challenge of learning both Tetum and Portuguese next year before taking on the role as director of the Catholic Teachers’ College in Baucau, East Timor, in January 2015.
'The language that is spoken day to day in East Timor is Tetum, and that will probably be the language I will be speaking to the locals in,' he said. 'Educationally they should be teaching in Portuguese because at the moment that is the administrative language of the country.
'I know I will be going to Dili from Baucau for meetings that maybe in Portuguese. I will have to make an attempt to meet them halfway.
'I’m looking forward to learning these new languages, but at the end of the day I don’t think I will be an expert. But I don’t think I need to be. I think I need to make an effort and if I can read it it’s one thing, if I can speak it it’s another, and if I can understand what someone else is saying that’s the third step.'
He added: 'For my language preparation in 2014 I’m looking at going to Brazil because I have been told it’s easier to learn Portuguese there because they speak very clearly. We have lots of Marist Brothers in Brazil and they’re quite happy to host and help me.”
Br Peter’s role at the Teachers’ College – founded by the Marist Brothers in 2001 – will be to look at its day-to-day running, as well as the development of succession planning. 'The East Timorese don’t have enough teachers and don’t yet have the capacity educationally to run a teachers’ college,' he said. “So my role is about being supportive and helping the East Timorese to eventually to be able to run a teachers’ college themselves.
'It wasn’t something that I had imagined that I would be doing, but being a Marist Brother you kind of wait for the next call.
'Marist North Shore is a fantastic school and I could have stayed here for a number of years, but this venture when put to me looks to be really exciting.
'There are 200-250 students at the teachers’ college, and they graduate 50-plus each year. They get soaked up by schools in the country because there’s a dearth of teachers.'