What is the Niue Language?(c) niuepocketguide.com
What is the Niue Language?

What is the Niue Language?

(c) niuepocketguide.com

The Guide to the Niue Language: Vagahau 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 1,500 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.

For more fun facts like this one, check out our article, 10 Fun Facts About Niue.

What is the Niue Language?(c) niuepocketguide.com

Speaking 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.

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.

If you are interested in Niuean history, make sure to dive into our Niue History article that covers it all in greater detail. Plus, get more information about the religious nature of Niue in The Guide to the Religions in Niue.

What is the Niue Language?© NiuePocketGuide.com

Where Does Niuean Come From?

The Niuean language, known as Vagahau Niue, is widely spoken around the island. 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.

The Different Dialects in Niue

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. The dialect from the south is known as Tafiti.

What is the Niue Language?(c) Niue Tourism

Pronunciations in Niuean

The first thing to know about pronunciations in Niuean is that there are only 17 letters in the Niuean alphabet: a, e, i, f, g, h, k, l, m, n, o, p, r, s, t, u and v.

How to Pronounce Consonants in Niuean

Consonants are pronounced the same as they are in English with a couple of exceptions.

The letter “g” is pronounced “ng” and has a soft pronunciation, similar to the sound in the middle of the word “singing”. For example, the word “Toga” (as in the amazing Toga Chasm) is pronounced “To-ng-a”.

The letter “t” is pronounced as “s” when it is followed by the vowels “e” and “i”. For example, the village name “Avatele” is pronounced “Av-a-se-le”.

How to Pronounce Vowels in Niuean

Most Niuean words are easy to pronounce as long as you understand the slightly different vowel pronunciations 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” and “far”
  • E: Pronounce it as the e in “leg” and “enter”
  • I: Pronounce it as the ee in “sheet” and “beet”
  • O: Pronounce it as the o in “short” and “sore”
  • U: Pronounce it as the oo in “pool” and “cool”.

The thing to note about Niuean vowels are the long and short vowel variants. Long vowels will be marked with a macron, which looks like: ā, ē, ī, ō and ū. However, you won’t always see the most accurate spellings for words that should have a macron vowel; vowel pronunciation is something you’ll usually learn with time.

Niue Language App

For audio playbacks of the vowels, consonants, all the essential Niuean words, translations and more, be sure to download the Fakaako e Vagahau Niue App free on the App Store and Google Play!

What is the Niue Language?© NiuePocketGuide.com

Niuean Words and Phrases to Know

Although English is widely spoken in Niue, effort in speaking the local language is always appreciated. Here are some Niuean words and phrases to try out…

Basic Phrases in Niuean

Hello – Fakaalofa Lahi Atu
Goodbye (to those that are leaving) – Mutolu kia
Goodbye (to those that are staying) – Nonofo ā mutolu kia
Please – Fakamolemole
Thank you (very much) – Fakaaue (Lahi)
Yes – E
No – Nakai
Excuse me – Tulou
Sorry – Fakamolemole mai
Eat or Food – Kai
Man – Taane
Woman – Fifine

Places in Niuean

Beach – Mataafaga
House – Fale
Supermarket – Supamākete
Sea – Moana
Reef – Uluulu
Mountain – Mouga
Island/Country – Motu
Village – Maaga

Food and Drink in Niuean

Banana– Futi
Bread – Fua falaoa
– Moa
Fish – Ika
Fruit (of the…) – Fua
Loku – Pawpaw
Mango – Malo
Melon – Meleni
Pia – Niue arrowroot
Uga – Coconut crab
– Earth oven
Rice – Alaisi
Taro – Talo (tropical root vegetable)

For more words, check out our 10 Words You Need to Know When Visiting Niue.

What is the Niue Language?© NiuePocketGuide.com

Frequently Asked Questions About the Niue Language

Finally, here are the most frequent questions travellers have about the language of Niue.

What Language Do You Speak in Niue?

Niuean (or Vagahau Niue) is the native language of Niue and English (or Vagahau Peritania) is also an official language in Niue.

Does Niue Speak English?

Yes, English is spoken in Niue.

How Do You Say Hello Niue?

“Hello” in Niue is “Fakaalofa Lahi Atu”!

More About the Culture and Language of Niue

That’s it for our quick guide to the language of Niue. For more Niue wisdom, take a look at these similar articles:

Finally, you might like to discover The Guide to the Niuean Culture for Travellers for even more advice on the local customs and cultural experiences.


Laura S.

This article was reviewed and published by Laura, editor in chief and co-founder of Niue Pocket Guide. Since arriving solo in the South Pacific over 10 years ago with nothing but a backpack and a background in journalism, her mission has been to show the world how easy (and awesome) it is to explore a paradise such as Niue. She knows the island inside-out and loves sharing tips on how best to experience Niue’s must-dos and hidden gems. Laura is also editor of several other South Pacific travel guides.

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