What Languages Do They Speak in Fiji?

March 20, 2019
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Captain Cook Cruises Fiji | Blog

One of the first questions that come to a traveler’s mind when venturing overseas is what kind of language barrier they may encounter upon arrival. Luckily, Fiji is a country that delivers all the perks of an exotic overseas destination, without presenting a challenge to native English speakers. Although the official language of the country is Fijian, English is still a national language and is spoken everywhere.

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THE OFFICIAL LANGUAGES OF FIJI

Fiji’s 1997 Constitution established Fijian as one of the official languages of the country. Fijian is an Austronesian language, a grouping that includes thousands of other languages spanning the globe. The language is of the Malayo-Polynesian family, not too different from Hawaiian and Maori. The type of Fijian spoken in the islands today is known as Bauan, named so in honour of the tiny island of Bau where the dialect was born. Fijian is spoken as a first language by more than half of the population, and as a second language by yet another quarter.

In addition to Fijian, however, English and Hindi (a variety much different from that which is spoken in India) are also considered official languages of Fiji.

Not only is English a national language, but it can also be heard everywhere on the islands. You can find English on TV, in the newspapers, on the radio, in businesses, and on restaurant menus. Almost everyone speaks English in Fiji and it is the main language used in communications, which is unsurprising considering the King’s English is taught in Fijian schools.

So, you can feel safe in the knowledge that arriving on the islands with only English in your language portfolio is perfectly acceptable. Translation is not really a concern for English speaking tourists while visiting Fiji.

Fijians promote an extremely relaxed culture and have been deemed the ‘friendliest people on Earth’. While that might sound like a touristy pickup line, it’s actually the truth! So even on the unlikely chance, you should find yourself amidst a small language hiccup, there’ll be no shortage of help and kindness to get you through it.

Related: Fiji Etiquette You Should Know

SPEAKING AND UNDERSTANDING FIJIAN

When travelling to other countries, non-natives may occasionally find themselves labelled with relatively unflattering terms used to describe tourists. When visiting Fiji however, there’s no cause for alarm if a local refers to you as kaivilagi (kai-va-langi) – it is simply a statement of fact that one is from a ‘foreign land’, and not an insult.

Still, it always behooves a traveler to put forth the effort to embrace the local culture and language of the country they’re visiting. With that in mind, here are a few phrases that might come in handy while navigating the Fijian Islands.

Hello (formal) – Ni sa bula (nee-sa-boola)

Hello (informal) – Bula (literally means ‘health’ or ‘life’)

Thank you – Vinaka (viee-naka)

You’re welcome – Sega na lega (senga-na-lenga)

I didn’t understand – Ham nhii samjha (hahm anh-ee sahm-ja)

How much is it? – Kitna dam hai? (kit-nah dahm high)

Just looking – Khali dekhta (kali deck-tah)

Yes – Io (ee-yo)

No – Sega (senga)

Please – Kerekere (kerry-kerry)

I’m sorry – Vosoti au (vo-so-chee ow)

Goodbye (formal) – Moce mada (mo-they manda)

Goodbye (informal) – Moce (mo-they)

Although the Hindi language is far less prevalent, primarily used by Fijian Indians who almost always also speak English, an easy phrase to remember is namaste, which means both hello and goodbye.

SPEAK TO THE FIJIAN LOCALS IN PERSON!

If you’re thinking of embarking on an adventure to the islands of Fiji, there’s absolutely no reason to worry about a language barrier as a native English speaker. You can look forward to your voyage with no worries in the communication department! Check out our small ship cruises to help you discover the perfect Fiji adventure.

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