American Samoans have a rich language that remains the main language of the people. English is the second
language and all islanders can speak english as well. There are several levels of spoken language. The high talking chiefs
have a high oratory of rhetoric that only the indoctrinated can understand. They are the politicians and negotiators. There
are regular chiefs that speak the everyday language of the people and get things done. Many have noticed how similar this
is to mainland American society.
This page tries to convey a little of the everyday language. Palagis (caucasions)
who try to learn are a great source of entertainment to native speakers. Learn to laugh along with them and be grateful their
English is better than your Samoan!
Samoan is from the Austronesian family of languages. It is closely related
to other Polynesian languages, especially Tongan. Here is a very cursory overview of the language and some vocabulary.
p,t,m,n,g,f,v,s, and a glottal stop, '
A glottal stop is when you start a vowel with your throat closed, as usually
is done in English. If you didn't, the word 'apple' would sound like 'happle.'
More letters k,h and r were added to
the Samoan alphabet for foreign or borrowed words. To complicate things for the beginner, in the common vernacular some consonants
are transposed when spoken: l for r and k for t. Thus the name Maria can become Malia and telefoni can become kelefoni.
"g" is pronounced with "ng" sound, so Pago Pago is prounounced Pahngo Pahngo. You can have fun correcting your educated friends
with this one.
Vowels: a,e, i, o, u pronounced generally as in romantic lanuguages such as Spanish and Italian.
HERE IS A SMALL VOCABULARY
- a'oga- school, faia'oga- teacher
a- of, particle used in may ways
ali'i- man of rank, chief
asu- smoke from a fire
aumai- get or bring
fa'a- In the way of, fa'a Samoa, the Samoan way
fa'afetai- thank you
fale- house, falea'oga- school house
i- in, particle denoting position
Kerisimasi - Christmas. The Samoan word for Christ is Keriso and Kerisian for Christian.
commonly used like saying "enough" in English
lavalava- clothes, particularly a wrap-around cloth
the, definite article, plural e
leai- no, none, gone
manuia- happy, lucky, Manuia le aso,
le kerisimasi- merry christmas
matai- title of extended family chief
sa- sacred, forbidden
papalagi- also palagi,
palolo- segmented sea creature that comes out of the coral to breed (and be eagerly eaten)
tusi- write, tusitala, person who writes stories
oka- okaoka, exclamation of surprise
taupou- title for position of village maiden
toga- fine mat, very valuable
small stringed instrument, you know it!
'ula- garland of flowers, 'ulalei, garland of ivory
va'alele- airplane, 'flying canoe'
LEARNING TO COUNT
- 1. tasi
11. sefulutasi, 12. sefululua, 13. sefulutolu,
14. sefulufa, etc.
20. luasefulu, 30. tolusefulu, 40. fasefulu, 50. limasefulu,
21. luasefulutasi, 22. luasefululua, 23. luasefulutolu, etc.
100. tasi selau,
200. lua selau, etc.
A FEW WORDS BORROWED FROM ENGLISH
- Kerisimasi- Christmas
moa- lawn mower
- black- uliuli
purple- viole, mumu pa'auli