Across the South Pacific nation of 300+ islands, the small population of just under 850,000 is comprised of indigenous Fijians, Indians, Chinese, Europeans and South Pacific Islanders. As such, many locals speak varying dialects of Fijian and Hindustani is spoken as well.
However, due to the tourism industry in Fiji, English is the official language of the country.
As a traveler, you’ll instantly feel at home anywhere you visit in Fiji, as the locals are incredibly warm and welcoming, but you’ll also find yourself quickly adapting to some of the local terminology when you visit Fiji.
Basic Pronunciations in Fijian
The first thing many travelers realize when going to Fiji for the first time, is that the capital city and location of the primary airport, NADI is promounced: “NandI”. This is because some unusual treatments of certain consonants and vowels in the English language.
- “A” sounds like: “ah“
- “B” sounds like: “mb“
- “C” sounds like: “th“
- “D” sounds like: “nd“
- “E” sounds like: “ay“
- “I” sounds like: “ee“
- “O” sounds like: “oh“
- “Q” sounds like: “ng“
- “U” sounds like: “ooh“
According to the official tourism board of Fiji:
There’s one word you’ll hear pretty much everywhere when you’re out and about in Fiji: bula. It’s our universal greeting and it speaks volumes. It’s a way to welcome someone when they arrive, say hello, hi there, g’day or cheers, wish someone good health and even ask ‘how are you’? If there’s one thing that’s worth doing quickly when you arrive, it’s picking up the habit of saying ‘bula!’ – you’ll find a friendly, smiling response is never far behind.
Other useful versions or extensions of “Bula” are:
- Ni Sa Bula or Nibula – polite greeting.
- Bula Vinaka – good, thank you.
- La bula – pleased to meet you.
- Bula! – cheers!
- Ni sa Bula – good afternoon or good evening greeting.
Often how your Fijian hosts may greet you in the morning or various times throughout the day, as a way to ask “How Are You?”.
Vinaka / Vinaka vaka levu
The Fijian word for “Thank You”, but can also be used as “Good”, as in a response to “how are you?”. The extended version is “thank you very much”.
- Yalo vinaka – also means “Please”
Tolou / Jilou
Pronounced “too low’, this is Fijian for “Pardon me” as an apology in the instance of an accidental bump into another person, or invading personal space.
Nī vosota sara / Nī vosoti au
Formal way to say “Sorry” or issue general apology in Fijian language.
The common word for a home or sleeping shelter. At many Fijian resorts, you can stay in a traditional Fijian bure with thatched roofs. Some may offer upgraded options such as treehouse bures or overwater bungalow style bures.
Pronounced “kerry-kerry”, this is a useful phrase for any visiting resort guest, as it means “a request, please…” so it’s a polite way to ask for another beverage, special service or other needs.
Thirsty? Then ask for a beer! Pronounced “bee-a“. You’ll likely be rewarded with the national beer, Fiji Bitter – which is lovingly called “bittah”.
The Fijian way to say “Enjoy your meal!”
Known more commonly to tourists as “Kava” the traditional ceremony drink of tribal villages. In Fijian, it’s pronounced “yang-go-nah“. The bowl in which Kava is prepared is know as a “tanoa” (tah-noah).
Fijian for Waterfall.
Moce / Ni sa moce
The Fijian way to say Good Night as you retire to your bure for the evening or “Goodbye” as you leave your new Fijian friends until next time.