|Fiji is a country of many languages. English,
the official language, allows the various ethnic groups to live and work
together. Most people speak at least two languages (English and either
Fijian or Hindi), and many people speak three. Minorities on the islands
may speak Urdu, Rotuman, Mandarin, Cantonese, Banaban, Tongan or Samoan.
Fijian is the most widely spoken indigenous language
in the Pacific and is related to Tongan, Tahitian and Hawaiian. There are
more than 30 main dialects, but Bauan is the most common because in 1835,
when the Fijian language was first written down, the island of Bau was
dominant. The Fijian alphabet uses all the English letters except x,
but some single letters are pronounced as double consonants. For example,
b sounds like the mb in slumber and d sounds like
the nd in wind.
|Most Indians speak Fiji Hindi, also known as Fiji
Baat. This language is based on the Bhojpuri dialect and includes many
Urdu and English words. People speak Fiji Baat at home, with friends and
at work, but on formal occasions, they speak shudh (pure) Hindi.
Radio broadcasters, public speakers, writers and teachers all use pure
The yaqona ceremony is an indigenous Fijian tradition.
It takes place before any important occasion. Participants sit around the
tanoa (a large wooden bowl). A plaited cord, strung with cowry shells,
stretches from the tanoa to the guest of honour or chief. Symbolically,
this cord links people with their ancestors. An official mixer crushes
the dried root of the yaqona and adds water to make kava.
After the guest or chief drinks the first bilo (half coconut shell)
of kava, the bilo is refilled for the other participants.
When the formal ritual is over, the participants relax and chat informally.
Did you know?
Fijian words were originally English. The Bauan word for cow is bulumakau
("a bull and a cow"). Beer is bia, company is kabani, cockroach
is kokoroti and jail is lokamu ("lock 'em up").