Subscribe to SmallPlanet

We Need Your Help

Five stars on Amazon! Don't miss Talesmag's first book of essays, on cross-cultural food experiences from Mexico to Mongolia (plus recipes!)
Submit a Real Post Report


How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

You can easily get by on English alone but Portuguese is useful for reading grocery labels. Tetun is not a difficult language to learn and it's nice to get some basic phrases down for taxis and the outdoor markets. - Sep 26, 2017
You can get by with just English but best to learn some of the local language. There are schools in the area. - May 30, 2017
Knowing Tetum, which is relatively easy to learn helps a huge amount. If you can't speak Tetum, but know Indonesian, you can get by in most parts of the country. Portuguese is often understood by older Timorese, given the country's history and they will eagerly practice with you. One can get by in Portuguese, if you speak very slowly. English is hit or miss, with the greatest concentration of English speakers in Dili, but don't be surprised if you hear kids or youth calling out to you as Mister (regardless of your gender). - Sep 30, 2016
Language policy is controversial. Portuguese is only spoken by about 20%, Bahasa is useful. Tetum is best. - Nov 21, 2013
English is widely spoken among the educated Timorese and expat community. Some knowledge of Portugese would be helpful for shopping, as many products are imported from Portugal. Some knowledge of Bahasa is also helpful, as many of the locals speak this and Tetun. - Apr 25, 2013
I do not speak a word of Tetum, Portuguese or Bahasa, and I get a long just fine. If you plan on interacting a lot with the locals you will need to learn tetum. - Mar 12, 2010
Most people in Dili do not speak English so it is helpful to know some Indonesian or Tetun. - Feb 23, 2010