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 Hindi.

 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?
Some 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").
Gift-giving is another essential part of indigenous Fijian life. A person who refuses a gift risks offending the giver. Visitors always bring a small gift (sevusevu) to their hosts, usually a package of dried yaqona root. The most precious gift is a tabua, a polished sperm whale's tooth. People offer it as a gesture of welcome, respect or sympathy. To receive a tabua is Fiji's highest honour, but the recipient must continue the gift-giving tradition by later presenting it to someone else.
  English Fijian  Hindi
  Hello   Bula   Namaste
  Goodbye   Ni sa moce   Namaste or Fir milega
  How are you?   Ni sa bula?   Kaise hai?
  I'm very well   Au sa bula vinaka   Theek hai
  Yes   Io   Ha
  No   Seqa   Nahi
  Please   Yalo vinaka   Kripya
  Thank you   Vinaka   Dhanyabaad or Shukriya