Speak Tahitian

Even though English is spoken and understood in most hotels, restaurants, and shops, learning a few Tahitian words and phrases is encouraged and appreciated. It can also be helpful, but not mandatory, to brush up on a few basic French phrases as French and Tahitian are the official languages and both are commonly used.

PARAU TAHITI ‘OE? – Do you speak Tahitian?

There are only a few Tahitian words that have found their way into everyday conversation by English-speakers, but some characteristic expressions are commonly used by foreigners living in French Polynesia, such as, aita pe’ape’a , which means things couldn’t be better. The word popa’a is often used to refer to foreigners.

Even though French is the official language, why not learn a little Tahitian?

Greeting people

To say good morning to someone, say: ‘Ia ora na! (Good morning!). If they answer you with: E aha tō ‘oe huru?, which means, How are you?, you can answer: Maita’i (Good!), Maita’i roa (Very good!) or even Maita’i ri’i (Not bad.).

Saying Thank you

If you want to say “Thank you”, say: Māuruuru. If you want to say “No Thank You”, say ‘Aita māuruuru. To say “Thank you very much”, say Māuruuru roa!.

Saying Good bye

To say good-bye to someone, say: Nānā! (Until we meet again!)

Yes or No

To say Yes (a definite yes), say: ‘E!. To say Maybe (an indefinite, vague Yes,), say: ‘A!. To say “No“ (firmly with no chance of changing your mind), say: E’ita!. To say “No” in a normal and neutral way, say: ‘Aita!.

Glottal stop, the letter h, accents and misunderstandings

A glottal stop is regularly used in Tahitian. It is a genuine consonant just like the others, however, it is represented by a straight apostrophe (‘) instead of with letters. It is pronounced by emphasising the pronunciation of the following syllable. Make sure you know when and when not to use “h”.  In addition, vowels are long when they have an accent mark (ā, ē, ī, ō and ū). Depending on how you use these subtleties of pronunciation, the meaning may vary, much to the amusement of the Polynesians!

Te ū means milk but Te hū means fart

You have been warned!

Here’s little lexicon of Tahitian words and expressions

welcome maeva, manava
Good morning ‘ia ora na
Good bye nana
Thank you mauruuru
Thank you very much mauruuru roa
Yes e, ‘oia
No ‘aita
How are you? e aha te huru?
Just fine, thank you maita’i mauruuru
No worries ‘aita pe’ ape’a
Cheers! manuia!
Take a seat! haere mai!
Husband, man tane
wife, woman vahine
beautiful nehenehe
big nui
good, well maita’i
sky ra’i
flower tiare
island motu
sea miti
ocean moana
food ma’a
ancient religious site marae
song himene
traditional dance ori
drum pahu
dance together tamure
outrigger canoe va’a
carved statue tiki
Happy New Year! ‘Ia ora na i te matahiti ‘āpī
Have a healthy and happy 2020! ‘Ia ora na ‘e ‘ia maita’i i te matahiti ‘āpī 2020
Best wishes ‘Ia pū te ‘ae’ae
Merry Christmas! ‘Ia ‘oa’oa i te Noera
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! ‘Ia ‘oa’oa i te Noera ‘e ‘ia maita’i i te mau ‘ōro’a matahiti ‘āpī ! »
Happy Easter ‘Ia ‘oa’oa i te ‘ōro’a Pātate
Happy Feast Day ‘Ia ‘oa’oa i teie ‘ōro’a
Happy mother’s Day, Mum ‘Ia ‘oa’oa i tō ‘oe ‘ōro’a nō te mau māmā
Mothers’ Day ‘Ōro’a nō te mau māmā
Fathers’ Day ‘Ōro’a nō te mau pāpā
Happy anniversary ‘Ia ‘oa’oa i to ‘oe mahana fānaura’a
Birthday ‘Ōro’a mahana fānaura’a
Congratulations! Te ha’apoupou atu nei !
Well done! Pōpō !
Hooray! Hūrō !
Wow! ‘Ī ïa! Wow!, it’s just breathtaking! [referring to the scenery] “’Ī ïa!, ‘ua ha’aviti mai!”
Yeah! Ī hī! / Ī hā! Yeah, I’ve won! Ī hī!, ‘ua rē au! ”
Fantastic/brilliant ‘Aita atu ai! (The walk was fantastic! ‘Aita atu ai te tere ori hāere! / That’s very clever of you! ‘Aita atu ai, tā ‘oe mea! ”
Oh, my! ‘Auē! “Oh, my! This is the first time I’ve seen such a big lobster! ‘Auē!, ‘a tahi nei au ‘a ‘ite i te hō’ē ‘ōura miti rārahi mai teie te huru! ”
Oh dear/Ouch! ‘Ae! Oh dear, that’s much too heavy for me! ‘Ae! Mea toihā roa ‘ino nō ‘u! ”
Enjoy your holiday ‘Ia maita’i i te fa’afa’aeara’a
Have a good time! Fāna’o maita’i! Have a good weekend! Fāna’o maita’i atu i tā ‘oe hope’a hepetoma! ”
Have fun! ‘Arearea maita’i !
Smile! ‘A ‘oa’oa !
Chin up! Tāpe’a te māna’o !
Yours truly Fa’ari’i mai te tāpa’o nō tō ‘u aroha
Sincerely yours Fa’ari’i mai te tāpa’o nō tō ‘u manava tae
Kisses! Te ‘āpā atu nei
A big hug! Te ‘āpā maita’i atu nei !
Have a nice walk! ‘Ia maita’i te ori-hāere-ra’a !
Come back soon! ‘Ia maita’i te ho’ira’a
Have a good trip ‘Ia maita’i te terera’a
Good luck ‘Ia mānuia
God bless you! ‘Ia ha’amaita’i mai te Atua iā ‘oe !
God keep you! ‘Ia tīa’i mai te Atua iā ‘oe !