Society Matters | Volume 32 No. 3 | Spring 2022

5 Volume 32 No. 3 | Spring 2022 Society Matters learnt English since I was at Secondary School, so at least I know how to speak English too,” he says. “I spent the first six months in Thailand learning Thai at Rajabhat University of Udon Thani but after that seemed like it was really still not enough, so I took another six months in Bangkok at an intensive Thai Language Course.” Fr Ben, who is based in Nong Bua Lamphu, says he has now been in Thailand for almost 10 years and is able to use the language in both formal and informal situations. “I keep learning it and keep trying to speak with Thai people every day, in terms of where I’m staying and working,” he says. He says his parishioners help him to speak Thai correctly. “The Thai language has five intonations in one word, which means one word could have five different meanings, so I have to learn from native speakers how to make the correct pronunciation,” he says. “I think, wherever we are, it is very important to at least be able to communicate with the parishioners in their own language because it can be really helpful for doing my job and doing the Mission.” Meanwhile, Fr Hung Nguyen SVD, who is Vietnamese, has recently returned to the Australia Province where he was an OTP student some years ago, to undertake English language studies before beginning his pastoral ministry here. “My mother language is Vietnamese,” he says. “I learned English for months when I did my OTP program in Australia 10 years ago, then I went back to Vietnam to finish my study, before returning to Australia four months ago to study English. “English is hard for me, however, I feel confident in my conversation with people. “For me, language is the gate to get inside the culture, so I am trying to open this gate to know Australian culture with my English. It is not easy but I can open it. I think I have a big chance for my future mission when I come here to study English.” Fr Olivier (Ollie) Noclam SVD who is Aboriginal Catholic Chaplain in Central Australia, was born and raised in Vanuatu. Also speaking French, English is Fr Ollie’s third language. He also learned Spanish during his OTP experience in Mexico and his first missionary assignment in Cuba. Now, he is slowly learning the local indigenous Arrernte language. “It’s very challenging,” he says. “It’s very hard to learn. I’ve been trying to learn it ever since I came here but it’s hard to write down the sounds because there are lots of consonants and not many vowels. “I haven’t made much progress in six years, but I keep trying and the people appreciate that. I can read a few things now, but my speech is still basic. I know some words and phrases but to have a real conversation that flows is hard.” Despite the challenges though, Fr Ollie is convinced that learning the language is crucial to missionary work. “People are closer to you when you speak their language,” he says. “When you express yourself in their language, people really appreciate it. “We have learnt basic Catholic prayers in their language so we can pray together and that provides common ground. “Parts of the Bible have already been translated into the Arrernte language and here in Alice Springs we have the Arrernte Mass, where most of the parts of the Mass have the responses in Arrernte words and the songs are sung in Arrernte. “The people here know we are trying our best. We don’t give up. It’s something important for us.” Fr Hung Nguyen SVD Fr Bernard Bella SVD with parishioners who help him to speak Thai correctly