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
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
Tongan alphabet:(Koe 'A Faka-Tonga)
(same as English).
Long Vowels:(Vauele Loloa)
(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)
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.
Note:The following characters are not in the Tongan alphabet:
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
"Weights" or Place Values:
||e.g. taha, ua, tolu, ....|
||e.g. taha ua, ua nima, tolu ono, ....|
||e.g. teau, teau ma ua, teau ma tolu, ....|
||e.g. tahaafe, tahaafe ma ua, tahaafe ma tolu, ....|
||Tens of Thousands
||e.g. taha mano, tahamono uaafe, tahamano toluafe, ....|
||Hundreds of thousands
||e.g. tahakilu, tahakilu uamano, tahakilu uamano toluafe, ....|
||e.g. tahamiliona, tahamiliona uakilu, tolumiliona, ....|
||Hongofulu, You may also say Taha noa as in "One zero"|
||Hongofulu ma taha or simply Taha taha (one one)|
||Uofulu or simply Ua noa,the rest follows a similar pattern|
||Teau or taha noa noa|
Freguently used words and phrases:
|Malo e lelei
||How are you?|
||Thank you very much|
||Get , bring|
||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?|
|Koe ha ?
|I fe ? ; Ko fe ?
Tongan Pa'anga (TOP)
|e.g Seniti e nima noa
|e.g Pa'anga e taha nima
Putting together what you have learnt so far
|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
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