CHL Student Buzz: Meet Kavita Peterson…

3rd May 2021

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Student, Undergraduate Certificate of Languages

They’re a professional translator of Japanese, Chinese and Spanish. They also speak Indonesian and Russian. Meet Kavita Peterson, who took the opportunity that COVID-19 gave them to return to the classroom and upskill, adding yet another language to their portfolio—Indonesian. Having studied Indonesian in high school for several years, Kavita decided to learn the language in more depth now, a language they believe is invaluable for Australia.

"At the moment my favourite word is 'terserah', which is a single word used to indicate something along the lines of "it's up to you" to choose or decide something. I'm a big fan of words in different languages which say a lot with very little!"

1. Tell us a bit about yourself—what you do currently and what you studied.

I’m a professional translator of Japanese, Chinese and Spanish. For my undergraduate studies I majored in Japanese and Linguistics, and I completed my Master’s degree in translation studies. I’m now back at university to upskill during COVID-19 and complete an Undergraduate Certificate of Languages. Currently I am a speaker of English, Japanese, Chinese, Spanish, Indonesian and Russian. You could say that learning languages is my passion!

2. What drew you to Indonesian?

I studied Indonesian in high school for several years but never followed it up. Since becoming a translator I have often wondered what it would be like to pick up Indonesian again, as I believe it is a valuable language for Australia, Indonesia being one of our closest neighbours. With the lull in steady translation work during the pandemic, I decided that now was a good chance to redevelop my language skills, even if only to pass the time!

3. What were your top 3 favourite things about your language course?

I have loved taking this certificate and wish it were a permanent option for students. The structure of the certificate was very flexible, meaning that I could fill the certificate with units from a number of languages. This has provided me with an opportunity to refresh my skills in Indonesian, Chinese and Spanish during the pandemic, which has been invaluable to me.

Studying online has been quite challenging at times; however, it has also brought with it the chance to branch out and do something different. As an extracurricular component to my Indonesian course at ANU we were encouraged to engage in several online “family visits”, where we joined a video call with a local family in Indonesia and were able to ask them questions about their lives and experiences. One such visit involved meeting a descendent of the Balinese Royal Family and being escorted around their lavish home and courtyards, which was both a surprise and an honour!

Doing this certificate also allowed me to participate in a “virtual exchange” to Indonesia through ACICIS, thanks to the organisation’s partnership with ANU. I have been blown away by the high quality of this intensive course, and together with my Indonesian unit at ANU I have been able to reach a level of Indonesian wherein I feel ready to add Indonesian to my working languages.

4. Can you name 3 reasons for people to study Indonesian?

I can name two! First, cultural relevance…As mentioned before, Indonesia is one of Australia’s closest neighbours, and for this reason alone proficiency of Indonesian is a valuable asset to have. As someone from a sociolinguistic background, I believe that learning a language is a window into understanding the cultures of the societies that speak it, as well as a great way to improve intercultural competence and develop empathy towards people from other backgrounds.

Secondly, it’s a gateway into language learning. From a purely linguistic perspective, Indonesian is probably the easiest language I have ever learned. The grammar is extremely logical and there are few if any exceptions to grammar, spelling and pronunciation rules, which makes it a fantastic option for people who want a gentler and rewarding experience with learning another language for the first time.

5. How does it help /has it helped you in your profession or in life?

With regards to my profession, obviously Indonesian will be another language for me to translate. I feel like I am at a good level now to be able to work with Indonesian texts proficiently. With regards to my life, as stated earlier, the more languages I come into contact with, the better I feel I can understand the world in all its complexity and empathise with others. When you really, truly engage with a language you can access new paradigms of thought and philosophy outside of your own. Even something as simple as reflecting on how Indonesian pronouns vary depending on various circumstances such as social hierarchy, gender and age can do wonders for your intercultural competence. Learning the words that make up a language is only the start of your journey, and if you are prepared to put in the work it can be a life-changing one!

6. Can you share one fascinating/fun fact about Indonesian/something you find particularly incredible about the language?

I was really interested to learn the alleged history behind the Indonesian language as a lingua franca. From what I understand, when the archipelago was coming together to decide on a national language, rather than choosing one of the local languages and risk dividing the nation or implying bias towards any particular region, it was decided that Malay, a common trading language which had already been in use around the archipelago for many years, would become the uniting language. Of course, since that time, Indonesia has developed its own flavour, coloured with myriad local jargon and expressions!

7. What are your future plans with respect to Indonesian or any other language?

I will be taking Indonesian on board as another cherished language to work with, and work towards maintaining the language alongside my other working languages. I also started studying Russian during the pandemic, and it is a goal of mine to get my Russian to a professional level as well; however, as one of the more challenging languages I have encountered, I imagine this particular goal is still a long way off!

8. Anything else you’d like to share? An interesting anecdote about your study of the language perhaps?

At the moment my favourite word is 'terserah', which is a single word used to indicate something along the lines of "it's up to you" to choose or decide something. I'm a big fan of words in different languages which say a lot with very little!

Whether Indonesian is directly related to your chosen career path or it just interests you as a language, take the learning pathway that Kavita did and broaden your horizons. Enquire now!

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