Building trust through language

Platoon commander Lieutenant John Haycroft found his deployment to Malaysia on Exercise Bersama Lima has revived his Indonesian language skills.

CAPTIONAustralian Army Platoon Commander Lieutenant John Haycroft converses with Malaysian Armed Forces Major Hazwan through their shared second language, Indonesian, during Exercise Bersama Lima, Kuantan, Malaysia. Story by Flying Officer Connor Bellhouse. Photo by Corporal Sam Price.

“I wasn’t exactly sure how useful Indonesian was going to be in this environment, but it’s been really helpful to communicate with the grassroot soldiers over here in Malaysia,” Lieutenant Haycroft said.

“Indonesian shares many common phrases with the Malaysian language, and even though they’re different, we’ve been able to communicate using the commonality.”

Personnel from the Five Power Defence Arrangements – Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and the United Kingdom – are being hosted by Malaysia for the annual exercise.

Lieutenant Haycroft said shared language made it easier to build stronger connections between his team and the Malaysian platoon.

“One of our primary goals for this exercise is building trust between ourselves and other nations. Having at least a basic grasp of the language shows that we’re willing to give a bit of effort to understand their culture,” Lieutenant Haycroft said.

Picking up the local language isn’t left only to the Australian personnel with a language background.

“All of the team have been learning some of the basics,” he said, “like, ‘thank you’, ‘hello’, ‘good morning’, and even that has a positive effect on people; you see them light up.

“It’s a bit more welcoming, as well as ingratiating ourselves as partners and peers.”


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