Updated: Monday, February 18, 2008
English is not just an official language in Fiji, it is compulsory in all schools. So there's a good chance that English will be the language you have in common with people you meet around the country. Of course, that is a major generalisation and you will probably find lots of examples to prove this wrong.
One thing's for sure though, English is the generally accepted language of officials and bureaucrats and is used as the main language of education, commerce and in the court system (hopefully you never need to find this out yourself).
English is one of three official languages of Fiji - the other two being Bau Fijian and Hindustani.
Though there are many dialects in use by indigenous Fijians, the Bauan one became the official standard during the colonial period. The Fijian alphabet includes everything in the English alphabet, except the letter ‘x’. The letter ‘h’ is only rarely used in certain dialects while the letter ‘z’ is common in "borrowed" words or slangs that are now included in the Macquarie Dictionary of the Fiji Islands.The missionaries used to write Fijian in two ways - one of which was phonetic. For instance, the letter “b” is pronounced with an “mb” sound before it, as in the case of the town Ba, and could be written Ba or Mba. Also, a “q” is usually pronounced “ngg”, as in yaqona. The phonetic spellings have all but phased out - though the sounds themselves remain the same.
The Hindustani spoken in Fiji is said to be an older version than that heard in India these days - probably because people of Indian ethnicity were first brought to Fiji over 120 years ago. Fiji Hindi is also unique in that it has developed more words and phrases here in isolation from the Hindustani of the continent.
The Indians in Fiji generally speak the language that is Hindi or Hindustani which is a lot different from the Hindi spoken in India. Fiji Baht (literally, 'Fiji Talk') or simply Fiji Hindi is a mixture of a few Indian languages, including borrowed words and phrases off the English and Fijian language. In other words….Fiji Hindi is ‘broken’ Hindi.
Like the origins of any other language in the world, Fiji Hindi evolved from the gradual blending of various cultures within the Fiji Islands, hence the common argument of legitimacy. There are other Hindi dialects that have been incorporated into everyday speech for the Hindus including Urdu, Gujarati, Tamil, Telugu or Punjabi. The result can be heard when, for example, the average Indo-Fijian will speak Tamil at home, Fiji Hindi with a friend, switch to the local Fijian dialect with the villagers, and use English at work/school and Standard Hindi at a religious gathering. It makes an interesting conversation.
Awesome dude! Sweet! Choice! Uro! Slang tiko vei iko! What’s the latest slang in your ‘hood? C’mon share it with us (and the meaning too!), and… keep it clean folks. Moce Jo!
Join the discussion (73 responses so far)