FIJI FRENZY

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Fiji Language

Fiji is a large island nation in the South Pacific, and although the majority of its population is English-speaking, many locals still speak Fiji Hindi or Bau Fijian. This diversity in language reflects the country's multicultural heritage and history and is part of the charm of holidaying in Fiji. The warm local greeting of Bula! follows you wherever you go, along with the wide and welcoming smiles of the friendly Fijian people.

Like any country, if you're thinking of packing your bags and heading to Fiji, it is polite to familiarise yourself with their culture and some of the common nuances and phrases of their native language. Doing so will allow you to better connect with locals and make for a more meaningful and enriching experience.

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Languages Spoken in Fiji

Fiji has three official languages: English; spoken by the majority of the population, Bau Fijian; spoken by Native Fijians, and Fiji Hindi; spoken by Indo-Fijians.

Bau Fijian

The traditional Fijian language is made up of a number of dialects, with the official interpretation being Bau Fijian. An Austronesian language, Fijian was initially spoken in Fiji when the first inhabitants arrived 3500 years ago from either Vanuatu or the Solomons. Today, just 450,000 (less than half the population) Fijians speak it as their first language, while 200,000 speak Bau Fijian as a second language.

English

English is the most commonly spoken language in Fiji, used by the wider Fijian population alongside the courts, businesses, and education system. Additionally, locals who speak Bau Fijian or Fijian Hindi as their primary language use English as their secondary language. This is attributed to the colonisation of Fiji by the British in 1874, and despite gaining independence in 1970, English remains the primary language.

Fiji Hindi

In the late 19th century, the British brought Indian labourers to Fiji for sugarcane farming.
These labourers were initially contracted to work for a set number of years. However, many stayed after their contracts, giving rise to Fiji's Indo-Fijian community. Today, Fiji Hindi, primarily spoken by Indo-Fijians, is one of the country's official languages.

Lessons in Bau Fijian

If you're headed to Fiji and looking to learn more about the language, it is important to understand that some letters are pronounced differently in Fijian. Knowing the nuances within Bau Fijian shows respect for the local language and culture and allows for effective communication between locals and visitors.

Common nuances in Bau Fijian include:

  • The letter 'D' has an invisible 'N' before it; for example - Nadi is pronounced 'Nandi', and the tasty, cool marinated seafood dish called kokoda is pronounced 'kokonda'.
  • The letter 'B' has an invisible 'M' before it; for example - words like Toberua are pronounced 'Tomberua'.
  • The letter 'C' is pronounced as a 'th'; for example - Mamanuca is pronounced 'Mamanutha'.
  • The letter 'G' is pronounced as 'ng'; for example - Sigatoka becomes 'Singatoka' and Naigani is 'Ninegani'.

Common Words and Phases In Bau Fijian Include:

EnglishFijianPronunciation
Hello/hini sa bulanee sar bula
Good morningni sa yadranee sar yarndra
Goodbyesa mocesa more there
Pleaseyalo vinakayarlo veenarka
Excuse metuloutoo low
Yesioee or
Thank you/goodvinakaveenarka
Thank you very muchvinaka vaka levuveenarka varka levoo
Much/biglevulevoo
Nosegasenga
Eatkanakarna
Villagekoroko ro
A little/smallvaka lailaiva ka lie lie
Great/a lotvaka levuva ka levoo
Fastvaka totolova ka tortorlo
Slowlyvaka maluava ka mar lua
Housevaleva le
Toiletvale lailaiva le lie lie
Comelako maila ko my
Golako tanila ko tan i
Oneduadu a
Tworuaru a
One moredua taledu a ta le

Note: Greetings may be shortened, for example, Ni sa bula can be just 'bula', ni sa yandra can be just 'yandra', and sa moce can be simply 'moce'.

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