Kia Orana, (Hello) everyone.
If you are sitting on your desk having daydreams of a wonderful tropical escape, the Cook Islands might be a great vacation place for you. This archipelago of 15 islands set in the South Pacific between Hawaii and New Zealand provides a wonderful balance of perfect beaches, deep jungle, and coral lagoons. Whether you stay on the main hub, Rarotonga, or venture deep into the remote destinations, one thing’s for sure: you will need some basic understanding of the traditional Polynesian culture and language to communicate well with the locals. Nothing beats learning a new language on your vacation and creating deep connections with locals while you’re at it. But here’s something interesting. There are five living languages spoken in the Cook Islands. Maori is the local language and it is similar to that found on many Pacific Islands. However, English is also an official language in the Cook Islands. So, don’t stress about translating “I lost my key card” every time after a fun night out. Basic English will suit you just fine over your long stay in these tropical islands. However, if you want to learn a new language, here’s what you need to know.
A Brief History of the Maori Language
Cook Islands’s Maori can be referred to as Rarotongan, named after the capital. However, native residents often refer to it as Te Reo Ipukare which when translated means “The language of the Ancestral Homeland.” Maori was named an official Cook Islands language in 2003 and it is closely related to New Zealand and Tahitian Maori. An estimate of 42,700 people from Aitutaki, Atiu, Mangaia, Mitiaro, and Mauke use these languages. All these are islands making up the Cook Islands. However, as you travel across islands, you might note different accents and some unique words or phrases. For example: ‘Meitaki Ma’ata’ means thank you very much on Rarotonga, but when you go to Mauke, ‘Meitaki Nui’ is the common phrase for thank you very much. Although it will take some time getting used to, here are 10 common phrases that you can use across all islands:
Ko’ai to Ou Ingoa? = What is Your Name?
If you are the friendly type, this phrase in the Maori language should be at your fingertips for your trip to the Cook Islands. Referring to people by their names creates a deeper bond compared to just visitor and local relationships.
Ko (Name) Tòku Ingoa = My name is
When a local asks you your name (Ko’ai tò’ou ingoa?), you should reply by saying “Ko Jane tòku ingoa” which translated to “My name is Jane.”It might be hard at first, but you’ll get the hang of it.
Pe’ea ‘Ua Koe? = How are You?
This phrase can be used as a form of greeting or just an inquisition of how someone is doing if you are willing to help. Understanding how someone is doing is also a wonderful way to create that deep bond with some of the locals. You will find out how many locals have interesting life experiences with time.
Meitaki Ma’ata = Thank you
Common courtesy is required everywhere. A simple thank you goes a long way into touching someone’s heart and gives them a sense of appreciation.You might experience many locals using this phrase in shops and kiosks as you walk around.
“Tei ‘ea te pi’a pà’ì?” = Where is the bathroom?
No explanation needed!
Tamata’ia = Give it a go
The next time someone wants to try something like diving, but they are not sure, just shout Tamata’ia and watch the locals broadly smile in agreement.
Ka Kite = See you later
This perfect is the best for getting yourself outside of awkward situations. If your friends want to go somewhere but you do not, you can “Ka Kite” yourself out of there.
Ea’a Te Moni I Teia Ra? = How much does this cost?
No vacation is complete without some shopping. When visiting the Cook Islands, you can enquire about the prices of different things by saying “Ea’a Te Moni I Teia Ra?” for something you’re interested in purchasing. However, when pointing at something out of reach you can switch “teia (this) for “te” (that).
Ta’i, Rus, Toru, ‘a, Rima = 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
At any given time during your stay here you will need to know your basic numbers. For example, when ordering drinks or food. This is where understanding a few numbers comes in handy.
Aere Ra (Goodbye)
This common phrase is perhaps the saddest to learn. Unfortunately, when your time comes to go back home, you will need to tell your new friends goodbye. Now that you have the common phrases to use when you visit Cook Islands, it’s up to you to book your flight here and “Tamata’ia!”