The official language of the island nation of Nauru is Nauruan, an Oceanic language and member of the Austronesian linguistic family. Nauruan consists of sixteen or seventeen consonants and twelve vowels. Some letters were added or adopted based on the influence of foreign languages such as German, Tok Pisin, and Kiribati. Previous to the island’s time as a German colony and the advent of the first written documents Nauruan had many different dialects which differed from district to district. Two Protestant missionaries, Alois Kayser and Philip Delaporte, had a major impact in terms of standardizing the Nauruan language through their various translation publications. Today, there are far less distinctive dialects throughout the island.

Nauruan is spoken by about 96% of native Nauruan citizens. It’s estimated that some 6,000 people currently living on the island speak Nauruan. Similarly, about 60% of the island’s inhabitants are native Nauruans. Other ethnicities represented amongst the local population are so called Pacific Islanders including Micronesians and Polynesians who make up some 26% of the population as well as Han Chinese and those with European roots who each make up 8% of the country’s total population.

Useful phrases in Nauruan include, “Imeg i anor?” which translates to “Where is the beach?” and similarly, “Inga etangan ren?” meaning “Where is the bar?” Another useful phrase for visitors to learn is, “Inga wanga daroom?” which is used in order to inquire as to the whereabouts of someone’s room. To bid someone goodbye in Nauruan is to say, “Tarawong”.

One of the most widely used minority languages in Nauru is English, however, it is the mother tongue of only about 2% of the local population. English is also the language used in government, commerce, and the media. Other minority languages spoken on Nauru include those native to other Pacific Islands such as Kiribati, Tuvalua, Marshallese, and Kosraen as well as Korean, Mandarin, and Cantonese.

This page was last modified on May 1st, 2018

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