More Samoa

Samoan language has a rich oral tradition carried on through story and dance from generation to generation.

Samoan language was written down by missionaries who introduced some new letters to the alphabet to aid in translating the Bible. Read more about how missionaries changed the Samoan language.


  Samoan Alphabet

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.
Consonants: 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.
The "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, Aah, ay, ee ,oh, ooh.

  Samoa vocabulary list

a'oga- school, faia'oga- teacher
ai- eat
a- of, particle used in may ways
a'u- I, me
ali'i- man of rank, chief
alofa- love
asu- smoke from a fire
Atua- God
alu- go
aumai- get or bring
fa'a- In the way of, fa'a Samoa, the Samoan way
fa'afetai- thank you
fa'amolemole- please
fale- house, falea'oga- school house
galuega- work
i- in, particle denoting position
ie togafine mat
Kerisimasi - Christmas. The Samoan word for Christ is Keriso and Kerisian for Christian.
lava- commonly used like saying "enough" in English
lavalava- clothes, particularly a wrap-around cloth
le- the, definite article, plural e
leaga- bad
leai- no, none, gone
lelei- good
lei- ivory
matua- parent
mai- from
motu- island
moa- chicken
manuia- happy, lucky, Manuia le aso,
manuia le kerisimasi- merry christmas
matai- title of extended family chief
o- of
sa- sacred, forbidden
sami- sea
sau- come
tapu- forbidden
timu- rain
tupe- money
papalagi- also palagi, anglos
palolo- segmented sea creature that comes out of the coral to breed (and be eagerly eaten)
tofa- goodbye
tusi- write, tusitala, person who writes stories
oka- okaoka, exclamation of surprise
talofa- hello
taupou- title for position of village maiden
timu- rain
toga- fine mat, very valuable
'ukulele- small stringed instrument, you know it!
ulaula- smoke
'ula- garland of flowers, 'ulalei, garland of ivory
ulu- breadfruit
va'a- canoe
va'alele- airplane, 'flying canoe'
vai- water

Learning to count

1. tasi
2. lua
3. tolu
4. fa
5. lima
6 ono
7. fitu
8. valu
9. iva
10. sefulu

11. sefulutasi
12. sefululua
13. sefulutolu
14. sefulufa, etc.

20. luasefulu
30. tolusefulu
40. fasefulu
50. limasefulu, etc.

21. luasefulutasi
22. luasefululua
23. luasefulutolu, etc.

100. tasi selau
200. lua selau, etc.

Some words borrowed from English

Kerisimasi- Christmas
kolisi- college
moa- lawn mower
musika- music
nusipepa- newspaper
sikareti- cigarette
telefoni- telephone
televise- television


black- uliuli
blue- lanumoana
brown- enaena
green- lanumeamata
orange- lanumoli
pink- piniki
purple- viole, mumu pa'auli
red- mumu
white- pa'epa'e
yellow- samasama

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