Tetum or Tetun is the co-official language of East Timor (Timor-Leste), along with Portuguese. There are several varieties, but the one spoken in the capital (Tetun Dili) is used as a lingua franca, and is used in the media and for education. However, most children speak one of the many other languages present in East Timor as their first language, and the use of Tetum and/or Portuguese in the early school years is a challenge.
Tetum uses a latin script and is heavily influenced by Portuguese as a result of Portuguese colonisation from the 16th century until 1975. Civil unrest during the Indonesian occupation which followed resulted in thousands of East Timorese fleeing to Australia under the Special Humanitarian Program. Most of these were Hakka-speaking ethnic Chinese – there are in fact only small numbers of Tetum first-language speakers in Australia. Nonetheless, there is an active Australian-led effort to increase literacy in Tetum and other East Timorese languages for East Timorese children, and online and university-level Tetum courses are available in Australia.

Number of people in Australia who speak this language at home: 955 (ABS Census Data, 2011)

Language Categories: Asian Languages and Pacific Languages

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