The official language of French Polynesia is French, a Romance language and member of the Indo-European family of languages. The historical roots of French can be traced back to the Gallo-Romance language as well as Vulgar Latin, which was the language spoken during the time when France was under the rule of the Roman Empire. Its alphabet consists of twenty six letters including four vowel diacritics as well as a cedilla, a hook or tail added to the letter “c”. A1996 law which made French the region’s official language also maintained that Tahitian and other languages native to Polynesia could also still be used.

According to figures from 2007, 68.5% of residents over fifteen years of age cited French as the language they spoke most often. Among the rest of French Polynesia’s population Tahitian was the mother tongue of 24.2% of residents followed by Marquesan (2.6%), Tuamotuan (1.5%), a variety of the Austral languages (1.3%), a Chinese dialect (1%), and some other language by 0.9%. Almost 95% of French Polynesia’s population reported being able to read, write and speak French.

Useful French phrases include common greetings such as, “ Bonjour” or the more casual, “Salut”. “Good evening” or “Good night” can be translated to, “Bonsoir” or “Bon nuit”. A good luck wish can be achieved with, “Bonne chance”. To communicate that you are sorry a variety of responses can be used including, “Désolé”, “Excusez-moi” or “Pardon”. To inquire if someone can speak English is to ask, “Parlez vous anglais?”

Minority languages spoken in French Polynesia include Tahitian, Marquesan, Tuamotuan, Pa'umotu, Austral, Rapa, Raʻivavae, and Mangareva. Tahitian, part of the Austronesian linguistic family, is the most popular of all the native Polynesian languages. It is spoken by an estimated 185,000 Tahitians. Marquesan, can be divided into North-Western and South-Eastern language subgroups. Pa'umotu is spoken by some 4,000 people. The minority language with the least number of native speakers is Rapa which is only spoken by about 400 people on the island of Rapa Iti.

This page was last modified on May 1st, 2018

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