No matter where you’re travelling, it’s never a bad idea to learn a few words in the local lingo. Not only is it fun to learn a new language, but a few basic phrases can go a long way in helping you communicate and connect with the people and places you're visiting. You’ll also demonstrate your respect for the culture. Even if you don’t pronounce words perfectly, your efforts will be warmly welcomed and praised. To save you the hassle of relying on Google translate, here are some basic words and phrases to learn before you set off on your Cook Islands adventure.
What language is spoken in the Cook Islands?
The Cook Islands is a self-governing nation in free association with New Zealand, which means Cook Islanders are New Zealand citizens who can live, work and travel freely in both countries. There are two official languages: English and Cook Islands Māori, also known as Rarotongan, which is spoken by over 20,000 people. Cook Islands Māori is similar to New Zealand and Tahitian Māori.
1. Hello – kia orana! (key-ah-o-raah-nah)
If you remember one Cook Islands phrase, make it this one. So much more than a simple ‘hello’, kia orana! literally translates to, “May you have a long and fulfilling life”. You’ll be greeted with this phrase when you land in Rarotonga, when you arrive at your hotel, when you sit down for a meal, and just about anywhere else you go.
2. Thank you – meitaki (may-tah-key)
Cook Islanders are known for their warmth, generosity and friendliness, and a nice way to show gratitude for their hospitality is by saying ka kite, which means ‘thank you’.
3. Goodbye – aere ra (eye-ray-raah)
Another phrase you’ll hear a lot is aere ra, which means 'goodbye' to a person who is leaving. If you’re the person who is leaving a restaurant or checking out of a hotel, and you want to say goodbye, you'll need to say e no’o ra.
4. See you later – ka kite (kah-kee-teh)
If you become good friends with your host or a local Cook Islander, you can say ka kite, which is a more relaxed way of saying 'goodbye'.
5. Yes – ae (eye), no – kare (kah-ray)
'Yes' and 'no' are two of the handiest words you can learn in any language. Even if you’re asked a simple yes/no question in English, it’s nice to respond in Cook Islands Māori to build rapport with the person you’re chatting to.
6. My name is _ – ko_toku ingoa (koh_toe-koo-eeh-noa)
If you get chatting to a local and they ask you what your name is, you can respond with ko_toku ingoa. It seems a bit tricky, but after a few rounds of practising this phrase, you’ll be impressing locals with your language skills in no time.
7. Island – motu
When you're travelling somewhere like the Cook Islands, it's quite helpful to know how to say the word 'island'. You'll see and hear this word quite a bit, so at least you'll know what locals are talking about when they're saying motu while pointing to a nearby islet.