CHL Student Buzz: Meet Tyler MacLean…

21st October 2021

Student, Double Degree, International Security Studies and Pacific Studies, with a minor in Tok Pisin

When CHL’s Tyler McLean moved to Australia from New Zealand, he didn’t realise what a significant impact Tok Pisin would have on his life in general, apart from brightening his career prospects and more importantly, transforming his perspectives and world view of people and culture.

"Tok Pisin has helped me in my general life, as it has allowed me to have a different perspective on different issues in the Pacific. I now have a greater understanding of problems that matter a lot to an area I care deeply about and want to work with. When learning a language, different ways of thinking are opened and explored, and I think that is something truly beautiful!"

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

Halo olgeta! Nem bilong mi Tyler na mi bilong Niu Zilan Translation: Hey everyone! My name is Tyler, and I am from New Zealand!

I moved to Australia during high school and then up to Canberra two years ago to attend university. I am currently studying a double degree of International Security Studies and Pacific Studies here at ANU. Pacific Studies has had a major impact on my learning experience here at university, and Tok Pisin (the official language of Papua New Guinea, or PNG) has also played a large role in that positive experience.

2. What drew you to Tok Pisin?

When I started at ANU, Tok Pisin was in its first year of being offered. It was new, different, and super relevant to my degree and future job prospects. Added to this, I had learnt French in high school and realised how much I enjoyed learning languages. Learning a language that represents part of the modern Pacific was an easy yes for me. Sticking with Tok Pisin was also an easy yes. Program convenor Jenny Homerang drove the creation and learning of the course, fostering a passion and curiosity within the students to learn more about the language and wider cultures of PNG.

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

Through learning the language, you’re able to learn about all the cultures and customs of the people that live within the region. Secondly, the people you meet within the class—both students and lecturers—are all on similar paths as you, and offer a diverse range of perspectives on the topics you cover. Further, Tok Pisin allowed me to delve into the numerous Indigenous cultures of the country as well and learn a language that was created by merging parts of English, German and multiple Indigenous languages. This, I found, deepened my appreciation for the language and the people of PNG.

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

PNG consists of over 800 diverse language groups, so being able to gain a deeper understanding of how PNG works as a country consisting of all of these languages is an incredible opportunity. This is particularly relevant when looking at it through the language of Tok Pisin and the perspective of people who speak the language.

By undertaking a Tok Pisin minor at ANU, you’re able to gain an understanding around the cultural similarities and differences both domestically and internationally for PNG. I find this to be one of the greatest parts of language learning.

Finally, this course is designed for the online world and, as such, you meet and interact with people from all over Australia and PNG as both students and guest lecturers. These interactions help to form a larger community for a language that is vital in the international politics of the region.

5. Can you share a fascinating/fun fact about Tok Pisin/something you find particularly incredible about the language?

Tok Pisin has helped me in my general life, as it has allowed me to have a different perspective on different issues in the Pacific. I now have a greater understanding of problems that matter a lot to an area I care deeply about and want to work with. When learning a language, different ways of thinking are opened and explored, and I think that is something truly beautiful.

6. Can you share one fascinating or fun fact about Tok Pisin, or something you find particularly incredible about the language?

Tok Pisin stands as one of three official languages as a lingua franca in PNG. This is largely due to how it was created as a mix and blend of different languages used as a tool to communicate with others during the time of blackbirding in the Pacific. Because of this history, Tok Pisin today is still able to adapt and evolve as a language and has become used more and more frequently in public discourse in PNG.

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

IAfter I finish my degree I hope to work in the Pacific region and with Pacific peoples. Tok Pisin is similar to other lingua franca in the region and, as such, the language will be very helpful for my future employment. In particular, I would like to work with Indigenous language policy specifically back home in Aotearoa, New Zealand and the revitalisation of both language and culture across the Pacific. I think Tok Pisin, alongside the other languages I have learnt, will be able to help me approach these aspirations in a way that is both respectful and appreciative of Indigenous people across the Pacific.

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

My favourite Tok Pisin word is Tumbuna because it represents ancestral ties and lineage. Tumbuna means ‘grandparents’ or ‘ancestors’ or ‘culture/tradition’, and it also resembles similar concepts across the Pacific. In te reo, Māori ancestors and grandparents are known as tūpuna or tīpuna. This shows a clear connection from a dialect heavily influenced by the West and the English language in Tok Pisin, holding on to traditional Indigenous ties and concepts of ancestry..

If you’ve been thinking about learning Tok Pisin, Tyler’s experience may have helped you to see the many benefits of learning the language. Want to enhance your career prospects or become more culturally diverse and enriched? Enquire now!

For program administration and Academic advice please contact the CHL Education Support team on education.chl@anu.edu.au.

Updated:  7 July 2017/Responsible Officer:  Director, Culture, History & Language/Page Contact:  CHL webmaster