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10 Minute Guide to Tonga
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Ten Minute Guide to Tongan:

Tongan is called a VSO (verb subject object) language in linguistics, meaning that the verb usually comes before the subject and the object. This is very interesting but somewhat very confusing especially during translational purposes. English is SVO (subject verb object), it is always a struggle trying to understand the differences between SVO and VSO languages. Let us have a look at an example.

  • Big House (this becomes "House Big" in Tongan , i.e the noun comes before the adjective)

    Consider the following simple sentence.

    This is a big house.

    This = Ko e, is = eni, house = fale, big = lahi
    Ko e fale lahi eni
    Ko e lahi fale eni

    The Writer of these Materials

    Tongan alphabet:(Koe 'A Faka-Tonga)

    A E F H I K L M N NG O P S T U V '

    Normal Vowels:(Vauele)

    a e i o u
    (same as English).

    Long Vowels:(Vauele Loloa)

    a e i o u
    (each vowel has a bar above it- faka'ilonga toloi, however I am still looking for a macro to draw the bar for me. If someone out there knows where to get this word macro for Tongan characters then please let me know)
    The effect of having a bar on top makes each sounds as if each vowel is doubled. E.g. mama as in Normal Vowel (a) means chew whereas maama as in Long Vowel(aa) means light. Obviously the effect of having either a normal vowel or long vowel definitely affects the meaning.


    The following characters are not in the Tongan alphabet:
    b c d g j q r w x y z

    Also ng are counted as one, they must always go together. The n can be by itself but g can't.

    This explains why the name Tonga is spelled as such. You can't have Toga (illegal syntax - can't have g by itself). However, you can have Tona - meaning "wart" , well different meanings ,aren't they?

    Numbers: Decimal System

    Digits Numerical Names
    0 Noa
    1 Taha
    2 Ua
    3 Tolu
    4 Fa
    5 Nima
    6 Ono
    7 Fitu
    8 Valu
    9 Hiva

    "Weights" or Place Values:




    Matelau Units e.g. taha, ua, tolu, ....
    Ngofulu Tens e.g. taha ua, ua nima, tolu ono, ....
    Ngeau Hundreds e.g. teau, teau ma ua, teau ma tolu, ....
    Afe Thousands e.g. tahaafe, tahaafe ma ua, tahaafe ma tolu, ....
    Mano Tens of Thousands e.g. taha mano, tahamono uaafe, tahamano toluafe, ....
    Kilu Hundreds of thousands e.g. tahakilu, tahakilu uamano, tahakilu uamano toluafe, ....
    Miliona Millions e.g. tahamiliona, tahamiliona uakilu, tolumiliona, ....



    10 Hongofulu, You may also say Taha noa as in "One zero"
    11 Hongofulu ma taha or simply Taha taha (one one)
    20 Uofulu or simply Ua noa,the rest follows a similar pattern
    28 Ua valu
    100 Teau or taha noa noa
    500 Nima ngeau
    1,000 Taha afe
    6,000 Ono afe
    30,000 Tolu mano
    90,000 Hiva mano
    400,0000 Fa kilu
    800,0000 Valu kilu
    7,000,000 Fitu miliona

    Freguently used words and phrases:



    Malo e lelei Hello
    Fefe hake How are you?
    Sai pe Fine, Alright,well
    Malo Thank you
    Malo 'aupito Thank you very much
    'Ikai No
    'Io Yes
    'Api Home
    Feitu'u Place
    'Omai Get , bring
    'Ave,'oatu, foaki Give
    'Oku ou;au Am
    Taimi Time
    Kai Eat
    Inu Drink
    'Alu Go
    Ha'u Come
    Ako Study,Learn
    'Uhinga Because
    Sio Watch,look
    Va'inga Play
    'O e Of
    Ngaahi Plural word(s) to go with any noun
    e.g house = fale <> houses,cars etc = ngaahi fale, ngaahi ka
    Ko hai ho hingoa ? Who are you? What is your name?


    Tongan English
    Koe ha ? What ?
    Fakaku ? When ?
    I fe ? ; Ko fe ? Where ?
    'Uhinga ? Why ?

    Tongan Currency:

    Tongan Pa'anga (TOP)

    Tongan English
    Seniti Cents
    e.g Seniti e nima noa Fifty cents
    Pa'anga Dollars
    e.g Pa'anga e taha nima Fifteen dollars

    Putting together what you have learnt so far

    Tongan English
    Kataki ha'u o' kai Please come and eat
    Malo 'oku ikai keu fiekaia Thank you, I am not hungry
    Ko fe pangike ? Where is the bank ?
    Koe ha e taimi ? What is the time ?
    'Alu 'o sio Televisone Go and watch Television
    Ha'u 'o Va'inga Come and Play
    'Omai e pa'anga 'e tolu nima Bring thirty five dollars
    Ko e ha e totongi 'o e sitapa? (ngaahi sitapa?) What is the cost of one stamp? (stamps ?)
    Can also specify the number of stamps

    End of Ten Minute Guide.....!

    But there is more - I have written a variety of tasks for those who are interested in learning more - just click on TASKS button below.

    To involve in active learning, it is time for you to do some practice. By this stage, you should have enough knowledge(or a feel for the Tongan Language - if not, do not worry,help is only a click away. I have designed exercises for you) to be able to have a basic conversation in Tongan. Better still, try and write a few sentences in Tongan. Please bear in mind that the author designed this Ten Minute Guide primarily to help tourists who want to visit Tonga. However those of you who want to learn more about the Tongan language - your needs are also catered for. Below are tasks, hints and my own lecture notes to make learning Tongan a rewarding and enjoyable exercise. Therefore, get ready and click on the tasks button below to start this learning adventure. HAVE FUN and BE MY GUEST......
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