January 13, 2011


Tongan is spoken by the people in the Kingdom of Tonga. Fifty two of the 176 Tongan islands in the South Pacific archipelago are inhabited.
Tongan consists of
5 vowels: a, e, i, o, u
12 consonants: p, t, k, m, n, ng, f, v, s, h, l, ‘
The consonants p, t, k sound voiced to English speakers.
Unlike English, Tongan words can commence with ng.
The ‘ is phonemic as can be seen in the following Tongan words:
  • la’a = sun vs. laa = sail
  • tu’i = king vs. tui = believe in God
  • ‘ivi = Eve vs. ivi = energy
Here are some of the words I have learned:

  • malo e lelei (hello)
  • malo (thank you) 
  • ‘alu ā (goodbye, if you are staying)
  • nofo ā (goodbye, if you are leaving)
Biblical words are “transliterated” using Tongan consonants and vowels: Semisi (James), Mele (Mary).