The two official languages of American Samoa are English and Samoan. Samoan is a Polynesian language which originates from the Austronesian linguistic family. It contains fourteen letters including five vowels, all of which include a macron, and three loan words (H, R, and K). Samoan is closely related to the Hawaiian language and is the mother tongue of native Samoans living not only in American Samoa but also in the Independent State of Samoa. In total the Samoan Islands are home to approximately 510,000 Samoan speakers.

91.6% of the population of American Samoa is made up of native Samoans. Because of this statistic it’s easy to see why some 91% of residents living in the territory cite Samoan as their mother tongue. 80% of the residents of the U.S. territory speak English. Other common languages include Tongan (2.4%), Japanese and various other Asian languages (2%), and an array of Pacific Island languages (2%).

Some commonly spoken words in Samoan include, “Ioe” meaning “Yes” and “Leai” meaning “No”. A good morning greeting can be achieved with the word, “Talofa”. To communicate that you are very pleased to meet someone in Samoan is to say, “Ua ou fiafia ua ta teiloai”. To inquire if a local can speak English is achieved by asking,“E te malamalama i le faa Peretania?”

Because of its Polynesian location American Samoa is home to several commonly spoken native minority languages. These include Tongan, which is primarily spoken on the island of Tonga. Japanese and other Asian languages are also spoken throughout the territory as well as an array of Austronesian languages native to people from Maritime Southeast and continental Asia, Madagascar, and the Pacific islands. According to recent estimates approximately 386 million people are fluent in one of a range of Austronesian languages.

This page was last modified on May 1st, 2018

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