Learn Some Words in Fakatongan!
Travel is all about discovering new cultures and the Tongan culture is certainly a fascinating one! One of the basic ways to start immersing in the local culture is to speak the local language. While you can get by in English in Tonga, all Tongans speak Tongan or “Fakatongan” as a first language. It’s always fun to learn and speak some basic words in Tongan. Give it a try with these words listed in the Tongan words you need to know when visiting Tonga!
1. Malo e Lelei!
Malo e lelei means “hello” in Tongan and is the Tongan word you’re bound to hear the most of a trip to the Kingdom.
2. Malo ‘Aupito!
Malo ‘aupito means “thank you” and, if you’re a polite tourist, it’s a word that you will be using a lot in Tonga. It is often met with a “‘lo malo”, which means “you’re welcome”.
If you’re staying at an island resort, you’re bound to be staying in a “fale”. This is a house in Tongan and, in the context of resorts, it’s your stand-alone cabin for sleeping in. Fale is a word seen at the beginning of a few words in Tongan as a word for different types of houses, for instance, the church is “fale lotu”, the hospital is “fale mahaki” and a restaurant in “fale kai”.
4. ‘Io / Ikai
‘Io means “yes” and ikai means “no” – simple!
Kai is the word for eating or food. Personally, we think it’s the most important word for anywhere in the world. Check out some “kai” worth trying in the 6 Unique Foods in Tonga You Have to Try.
On a similar note to kai, inu means drink! Check out some “inu” to try in the 10 Drinks in Tonga You Have to Try.
7. Fale Koloa
Another type of fale that you’ll need to know is the fale koloa. Fale koloa refers to the small convenience stores seen around Tonga with the metal grates over the windows. Learn more about shopping at fale koloa in Where to Buy Food in Tonga.
A palangi is quite simply a “white person”, usually referring to foreigners/tourists/white people/Europeans.
Kava is the national drink of Tonga and a narcotic drink enjoyed across the South Pacific islands. Tonga is a significant producer of the pepper plant that makes the roots of which kava is made from. Kava is ground-up roots mixed with water. Traditionally, only the men drink kava with a woman blessing the kava before it is drunk.
10. Taha, Ua, Tolu…
Otherwise, “One, two, three…” However, this is only the number for the standard numbering system in Tonga. There are different numbering systems used for different items, for instance, there are different numbers for counting coconuts than there is for counting fish.