"We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us."            




The official languages of French Polynesia are French and Tahitian. Each island group has its own language, e.g. Tuamotuan in the Tuamotus and Marquesan in the Marquesas.

These languages, together with Tahitian, are East Polynesian languages and members of the vast Austronesian language family.

Tahitian's closest relatives include Hawaiian, Maori, Marquesan, and Tuamotuan; other Polynesian languages such as Samoan and Tongan are also quite closely related. The relationship of these Polynesian languages to many Micronesian and Melanesian languages, such as Fijian, is more remote but still evident, as is the affiliation of all the above to the enormous Austronesian (or "Malayo-Polynesian") language family which encompasses most languages of Oceania, Indonesia (e.g. Malay), the Philippines (e.g. Tagalog), Madagascar (Malagasy), and Taiwan, which together number in the thousands, making this one of the world's most important language families.

Because of the way the Tahitian language is pronounced, it is generally easier for Americans to pronounce Tahitian words than it is for them to pronounce words in French. Unlike French or English, there are no confusing rules about how words are pronounced. In Tahitian, each letter has a certain sound and that sound remains the same, no matter what the combination of letters.

Before the arrival of the missionaries in the 1700's, the Tahitian language had never been written. The missionaries took the sounds of the language and matched them to letters in our alphabet. As a result, only 16 letters are used: five vowels, A, E, I, O, U; and eleven consonants, B, F, G, H, K, M,
N, P, R, T, V.

The vowels follow these rules for pronunciation:

A pronounced ah as in father
E pronounced ay as in may
I pronounced ee as in be
O   pronounced oh as in no
U     pronounced oo as in rude

Pronunciation of the consonants is the same as for English.

Every syllable in the Tahitian language ends in a vowel. There are no silent letters. There are never two consonants together without a vowel between them, but it is quite common for 2 or 3 vowels to be grouped together. In this case, each vowel would be a separate syllable and would be clearly pronounced. There are times when it sounds as though each syllable isn't being pronounced for some words because, as in most languages, syllables are frequently slurred together.

The only difficult part of pronunciation in Tahitian is the glottal catch. This is when two vowels are separated by an apostrophe, such as in the name of the town, Faa'a. It is the only characteristic with which people seem to have trouble. but it is an important characteristic because the break can change the meaning of a word entirely.

Take, for example, the Tahitian word hoe, which means paddle or row. By adding an apostrophe, ho'e, the word becomes one, as in the number. Hoe would be smoothly pronounced ho-ay. Ho'e would be pronounced the same way, phonetically, but with a hesitation after the first syllable, kind of like having someone lightly punch you in the stomach at the end of the ho.

Another aspect of the language comes from the early contact with the missionaries. There are many Tahitian words that sound very similar to English, such as Tenuare, pronounced ten-oo-ah-ray, which means January, or Fepuare (feh-poo-ah-ray), which is February.


Hello (general greeting)  Ia Orana (yo-rah-nah)
How are you?    Maita'i oe? (my-tie oh-ay)
I am fine.    Maita'i vau. (my-tie vah-oo)
Thank you.    Mauruuru. (mah-roo-roo)
Bye bye.    Nana. (nah-nah)
What's new?    Eaha te parau api? (ay-ah-ha tay pah-rah-oo ah-pee)
Do you speak English?  Ua ite oe i te parau Marite? (oo-ah ee-tay oh-ay ee tay pah- rah- oo mah-ree-tay)
I don't understand.  Aita i papu ia'u. (eye-tah ee pah-poo ee-ah-oo)
Please speak slowly.  Faa taere te parau. (fah-ah tah-ay-ray tay pah-rah-oo)
Repeat please.  Tapiti. (tah-pee-tee)
What's your name?  O vai to oe i'oa? (oh vah-ee toh oh-ay ee-oh-ah)
My name is Chris.  O Chris to'u i'oa. (oh kris toh-oo ee-oh-ah)
Where do you live?  Ihea oe e faeia ai? (ee-hay-ah oh-ay ay fah-ay-ee-ah ah-ee)
I live in California.  I California vau e faeia ai. (ee California vah-oo ay fah-ay-ee-ah ah- ee)
Where are you from?  Nohea mai oe? (noh-hay-ah my oh-ay)
I am from America.  No te Fenua Marite mai vau. (noh tay feh-noo-ah mah-ree-tay vah- oo)
Show me the way to...  Fa'aite mai ia'u ite e'a ... (fah-eye-tay my ee-ah-oo ee-tay ay-ah)
Let's go!  Haere tatou! (ha-ay-ray tah-toh-oo)
Come here!  Haere mai! (ha-ay-ray my)
Turn right.  Na te pae atau. (nah tay pah-ay ah-tah-oo)
Turn left.  Na te pae aui. (nah tay pah-ay ah-wee)
Please take me to ...  Arave ato'a ia'u ... (ah-rah-vay ah-toh-ah ee-ah-oo)
I want to speak to Chris.  Hina'aro vau e parau ia Chris. (hee-nah-ah-roh vah-oo ay pah-rah- oo ee- ah kris)
Who is this?  Ovai te ie? (oh-vie tay ee-ay)
What is the name of this?  Eaha tei'oa ote'ie? (ay-ah-ha tay-ee-oh-ah oh-tay-ee-ay)
What is the price of this?  Ehia moni te'ie? (ay-hee-ah moh-nee tay-ee-ay)
What's wrong?  Eaha te tumu? (ay-ah-ha tay too-moo)
Look!  A hi'o! (ah hee-oh)
Hurry up!  Ha'a viti viti! (ha-ah vee-tee vee-tee)
Take it easy!  Haere maru! (ha-ay-ray mah-roo)
To your health!  Manuia! (mah-nwee-ah)
This is very good.  E mea maita'i roa teie. (ay may-ah my-tie roh-ah tay-ee-ay)
Do you want a drink?  Hina'aro oe e inu? (hee-nah-ah-roh oh-ay ay ee-noo)
Are you hungry?  Ua poia anei oe? (oo-ah poh-ee-ah ah-nay-ee oh-ay)
Yes  E (ay)
No  Aita (eye-tah)
What?  Eaha? (ay-ah-ha)
Why?  No te aha? (noh tay ah-ha)
I love you.  Ua here vau ia oe. (oo-ah hay-ray ee-ah oh-ay)
Merry Christmas.  Ia orana no te noere. (yo-rah-nah noh tay noh-ay-ray)

Happy New Year.

 Ia orana i te matahiti api. (yo-rah-nah ee tay mah-tah-hee-tee ah- pee)

                                                               SOME TAHITIAN WORDS

Motu                small islet on the reef

Oa na              happy

Papeete          water basket

Pareu              two meters of cloth worn many ways

Tamaaraa       Tahitian feast

Tamure           famous hip swinging dance

Fiu                  fed-up

Maohi             Tahitian person

Marae             temple

Fenu             the country, the land

Tiare             flower

Vahine          woman

Tane             man

Ma'a              food

Pape             water

Pia                 beer

Tabu              forbidden

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