pacific for less four seasons

Talk the Tahitian Language

If you learn some Tahitian words from the Tahitian language you will make a good impression with the locals. Before you fly off on your Bora Bora vacation have some fun memorizing a few useful Tahiti French phrases as well.

On this page you can learn to speak Tahitian words, and French phrases and words, that will be most useful. Further down you will find some French words that will help you to read food items on a menu (so the surprises on your plate are good ones!).

The official languages of Tahiti and her islands are French and Tahitian. Although French is used in schools and business, the Tahitian language is still preferred by most islanders in their homes. English is well spoken in the tourist areas and resorts. But if you do some exploring on your own, and venture to the local's hot spots, you will come across places where English is not understood. For example, menus outside of hotel restaurants, or at roulettes, will often be in French so you will want to understand some French words.

If you are going to eat at your Bora Bora resort, do pre-organized tours, and relax around your resort's beach or on your over water bungalow, you can probably get away with just learning the first Tahitian word I learnt, “mauru'uru”!

I enjoy immersing myself in the Tahitian culture even if I don't understand everything that is said in the Tahiti language (or on the menu!). Actually this is the best way to learn to speak Tahitian. I want to experience as much of the real Tahiti as I can. Even though it is tempting to loll around your gorgeous resort, you may wish to venture out to the 'unknown' for a while. If you want to explore independently, I recommend taking a little French language book with you.

Although English is spoken and understood in most of the places you will visit, the best way to thank locals is in their own Tahitian language. Try it and watch their smiles grow bigger. When I am on a tour or activity with a Polynesian host, I use the Tahitian words that I know, and it makes their day!

Tahitian Language

Here are some Tahitian words and phrases to charm the locals during your Bora Bora vacation:

Tahitian Pronunciation
Ia Ora na yo-rah-nah
Nana nah-nah
E ay
Aita eye-tah
Maeva mah-ay-vah
Thank you
Mauru’ uru mah-roo-roo
How are you?
Maita’i oe? may-tay oh-ay
I am fine
Maita’i roa may-tay ro-ah
No problem
Aita pe’a pe’a eye-tah pay-ah pay-ah
Let’s go
Haere tatou ha-ay-ray tah-taw
Manuia! mah-new-yah
A hi’o ah-hee-oh
A hi’o ah-hee-oh
Black pearl
Poerava po-ay ra-vah
Cloth wrap
Pareu pa-ray-oh
Tiare tee-ah-ray
Motu mo-too
Moana mo-ah-nah
Ma’a mah-ah
Pape pa-pay
Faraoa fah-rah-o-ah
Pia pee-ah
Ancient temple
Marae mah-ray
Himene hee-meh-nay

Tahiti French Phrases

You will find learning some basic French phrases useful, especially if you visit a local magasin (store) or supermarché (supermarket) in Tahiti. Language differences gave us a very funny experience on a visit to the Carrefour supermarket in Papeete (we fondly refer to the 'super-gourmet-market').

We were wanting to buy duck pate, and found that the deli assistant didn't understand English. In desperation I pointed to a pate tub and said “quack, quack”. The self conscious shop-girl looked around to see if her male counterpart was noticing and then responded with a “cluck, cluck”. So we pointed to another. Her “oink oink” clearly said pig. Finally our “quacking” and arm flapping located the duck pate (and when we spread it on crispy French sticks the taste was worth the effort).

It is amazing how much you can communicate without words! But remember that you will get the rapport of the Polynesians more easily by using some words from the Tahitian language rather than trying to speak French. Also, it will make your trip easier (and less embarrassing) if you know some of the following Tahiti French phrases:

French Pronunciation
Do you speak English?
Parlez-vous anglais? par-lay voo on-glay
Excuse me
Excusez-moi ex-que-zay mwah
bonjour bon-joor
Au revoir oh ruh-vwar
I'm sorry
Pardon pahr-dohn
My name is
Je m'appelle jeh mah-pell
Non nohn
S'il vous plaît si vu play
Thank you
Merci mer-see
oui Wee
Thank you very much
Merci Beaucoup mer-see-bue-cue

And to prevent the quacking, flapping incident happening to you, here are the different types of meat, as well as some other food items, in French:

  • steak - le bifteck
  • turkey - la dinde
  • snails - les escargots (m)
  • ham - le jambon
  • rabbit - le lapin
  • fish - le poisson
  • pork - le porc
  • chicken - le poulet
  • roast beef - le rosbif
  • sausage - le saucisson
  • veal - le veau
  • duck - le canard
  • bread stick - baguette
  • café au lait - coffee with milk
  • fish - du poisson
  • vegetables - de légumes
  • seafood - des fruits de mer
  • potato - des pommes de terre
  • soup - de la soupe
  • cheese - fromage
  • Bread - du Pain
  • One of the delights of being in Tahiti is the easy availability of delicious, fresh, tropical fruit. You will want to know the Tahiti French words for your favorite fruits to ask for a tropical juice or order a Tahitian tropical dessert!

  • ananas - pineapple (the sweetest pineapple you will ever taste)
  • banana - banane
  • lemon - citron
  • lime - citron vert
  • strawberry - fraise
  • raspberry - framboise
  • grapefruit - pamplemousse
  • orange - orange
  • watermelon - pastèque
  • peach - pêche
  • apple - pomme
  • grape - raisin
  • Papaya -papaye

  • Tahitian Language history

    The Tahitian language was once indigenous to the Polynesians on the island of Tahiti and it's close neighbors. Because Tahiti was the largest and most populated island, the missionaries chose the language of Tahiti as the main one for their work. They trained native pastors who moved out across the islands and archipelagos, spreading Christianity and handing out Gospels and literature in the Tahitian language. Gradually the prolific printed Tahitian word replaced local dialects and other languages. Today Tahitian is spoken on about 100 islands throughout French Polynesia.

    For some tips on getting ready for your Bora Bora vacation, visit our what to take to Bora Bora page. Our Bora Bora vacation page will give you great planning tips to make the most of your holiday.

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