The two official languages of the Marshall Islands are English and Marshallese. Marshallese, also referred to as Ebon, originates from the Austronesian language family which also includes Micronesian, Oceanic, and Malayo-Polynesian. It consists of two major dialects which are divided into east, Ratak, and west, Rālik. Marshallese makes use of the Latin alphabet and consists of twenty four letters. The language also includes two different spelling systems; old and new. While the old was introduced to the region by way of foreign missionaries the new orthography better reflects the modern realities of the people of the Marshall Islands.

In the Marshall Islands Marshallese is spoken by approximately 44,000 people. Unlike other native Micronesian languages currently facing extinction Marshallese is in wide use among the residents of the Marshall Islands as well as by citizens in such neighboring countries as Nauru. One of the reasons for the language’s survival may be the fact that about 92% of the Islands residents are native Marshallese with another almost 6% identifying as mixed Marshallese.

Some common words in the Rālik dialect include the numbers one through five; juon, ruo, jilu, emān, and ļalem. The twelve months can be translated to Jānwōde (January), Pāpode (February), M̧aaj (March), Eprōļ (April), Māe (May),Juun (June), Juļae (July),O̧kwōj (August),Jeptōm̧ba and Jebtōm̧ba (September),Oktoba (October), Nobōm̧ba and Nopem̧ba (November), and Tijem̧ba (December). Days of the week in Marshallese include Jabōt (Sunday), M̧ande (Monday), Juje (Tuesday),Wōnje (Wednesday),Taije (Thursday),Bōraide, Bōļaide, and Būļāide (Friday), and Jādede (Saturday).

The vast majority of residents living on the Marshall Islands speak Marshallese. Only a small percentage of the local population cites English as their first language. Because of its colonial history and status as a popular tourist destination the Marshall Islands are visited by many foreigners every year. These short term residents come from a variety of backgrounds and speak languages such as Spanish, English, and Japanese. Other visitors journey there from nearby islands such as Nauru.


This page was last modified on May 1st, 2018