Tetum is spoken in East Timor, where it has been an official language since 2002, when East Timor became an independent country. Tetum is spoken alongside Portuguese, which is also an official language. Tetum is also spoken in West Timor. Approximately 800,000 people speak this language. Tetum is also written as Tetun. A creolized form of Tetum, Tetun Dili is also spoken in East Timor. Tetun Dili is not mutually intelligible with Tetum. Tetun Dili has been greatly influenced by the vocabulary from the Portuguese language.
The spelling of Tetum words vary, despite the fact that Tetum has a standardized orthography. This standardized orthography was put in place by the National Institute of Linguistics in 2004. Tetum has 4 main dialects. This includes Tetu Dili, otherwise known as Tetun-Prasa, which is spoken in the capital Dili and the surrounding areas. Tetu-Terik is a dialect which is spoken in the southwestern coastal regions. Tetun-Belu or Belunese is spoken in the coastal strip between the Ombai Straight and the the Timor Sea. Belunuese has no official status in West Timor. It is used to carry out Roman Catholic rites in the Diocese of Atambua. The Nanae’k dialect is mainly spoken along the coastal road between Manatuto and Dili and the Metinaro village.
Tetum is an Austronesian language that falls under the Malayo-Polynesian branch of languages. It is written using Latin script. The language has been heavily influenced by the Portuguese language and has Portuguese loan words. It has also been influenced by Malay and Indonesian.