What Language Do They Speak in Niue?
Despite the fact that you will feel in a brand new world when visiting Niue, communication will be pretty easy. Niue only has two official languages: Niuean (or Vagahau Niue) and English (or Vagahau Peritania).
Both languages are widely spoken throughout the island and almost everybody will be able to answer you in English. However, learning a few Niuean words will surely bring out some massive smiles and break the ice with locals. There is nothing like showing interest in the local culture to be shown a few hidden gems around the village!
So, learn about the Niue language and even learn a few words in this guide to the Niuean language.
A Fun Fact About the Niuean Language
There are more people speaking Niuean outside of Niue than in Niue. That’s right, it is estimated that a total of 7,000 people speak Vagahau Niue in the world. And, with only 1,400 people living in Niue permanently, this means that there are more people around the world speaking Niuean than in Niue itself. You can find Niuean speakers in the Cook Islands, New Zealand and Tonga.
English in Niue
Niueans are born and raised bilingual in both English and Vagahau Niue, so you can expect everybody in the country to speak English. School children are taught both languages in school, while signage, packaging and communication will be widely available in English. Your hotel staff, as well as the staff at the visitor centre, the bank and most businesses, will be fluent in English.
If you are a native English speaker, you will be right at home. That is if you can get used to the strong New Zealand accent though!
Why Do People Speak English in Niue?
Niue was under British influence since the mid-1800s when Christianity was established on the island by British missionaries. In 1900, the local chiefs gained British Protectorate and English has been taught ever since. Even after 1974 when Niue gained its independence from New Zealand, strong bonds remained between the two countries and English was never thought of as a “language to get rid of”, but became an asset to the country’s tourism industry and international connections.
Niuean in Niue
The Niuean language, known as Vagahau Niue, is widely spoken around the island too. It is a fascinating language that, when heard, will instantly make you feel on holiday. The language is a Malayo-Polynesian language that is very similar to Tongan. It also has similarities with Maori, Samoan and Hawaiian.
Interestingly enough, although Niue is a tiny isolated island, differences between the north and the south of the island can be found within the language with the dialect from the north (motu) being the oldest.
Niuean Language Pronunciation
Most Niuean words are easy to pronounce as long as you understand the slightly different vowel pronunciation of the language. Each vowel has a bit more of a ring to them than in English and can drastically change the sound of a word. Here is what sound each vowel should make in Vagahau Niue:
- A: Pronounce it as the a in “car”
- E: Pronounce it as the e in “leg”
- I: Pronounce it as the ee in “sheet”
- O: Pronounce it as the o in “short”
- U: Pronounce it as the oo in “pool”
And now for the fun part, here are a few Vagahau Niue words that you could learn in order to impress your hosts when travelling to Niue:
Hello: Fakalofa Atu
Thank you (very much): Fakaue (Lahi)
Eat or Food: Kai
For more words, check out our 10 Words You Need to Know When Visiting Niue.
More About the Niuean Language and Culture
That’s it for our guide to the Niue language. Now you might like to discover The Guide to the Niuean Culture for Travellers for even more advice on the local customs and cultural experiences.