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Timor-Leste is one of Australia’s closest neighbours, but few people realise just how close. When Timor-Leste gained independence in 2002, Tetum was adopted as one of the country’s two official languages. Due to its colonial history, Tetum has strong linguistic influences from Portuguese. In addition, many words in Tetum are derived from Malay. Despite Timor-Leste being one of Australia’s closest neighbours, experts on Timorese language and culture outside the country are rare. Timor-Leste, as part of the Southeast Asian archipelago, has a deep human history and its cultural heritage contains traditional Timorese, Portuguese, Chinese and Indonesian facets. The study of Tetum is essential for anyone wishing to understand Timor-Leste's society, culture and history.


ANU is the only university in Australia that offers Tetum, providing a program with a specialised and flexible approach. In our classes we read and engage with Tetum-language media, write and speak the language. Because of its grammatical simplicity, Tetum students usually move quickly in their language progression.

Our courses, all of which are offered 100% online, range from beginner to advanced level. In Tetum 1, which students will gain a practical command of basic Tetum and an elementary capacity to read Tetum newspaper articles with the help of a dictionary. In the most advanced course, Tetum 4, students will learn how to discuss and write about a variety of topics including government officials and functions, health, the environment and Timorese history.

Study options

The ANU Tetum program is fully online, offering a supportive and interactive learning environment in which students can communicate and practise with the teacher and their peers. A wide range of written and multimedia materials supports students’ learning activities. 

Tetum can be included in studies at ANU in a variety of ways: as a major or a minor in a variety of degrees; as the language in a Diploma in Languages qualification or as electives within a degree or studied as individual courses on their own

Tetum is available to any ANU student, or cross-institutional to external students and interested members of the public through Open Universities Australia.

Undergraduate courses; Tetum 1Tetum 2Tetum 3 and Tetum 4. See ANU Programs and Courses for study options. See Open Universities Australia for studying Tetum 1-4 as subject.

The School of Culture, History and Language places a unique emphasis on in-country experience. For more information on exchange programs and in-country language opportunities, visit the ANU global programs or enquire