The official languages of French Polynesia are French and Tahitian, although each island group has its own language. English is spoken in all hotels. On most of the larger islands you will also find English spoken in most shops and restaurants. However, as you get to more of the remote islands, you will find fewer people speaking English.

Here are some useful French phrases to get you started (Tahitian phrases are further down the page):

ENGLISH

 

FRENCH

 

PRONUNCIATION

 

Hello Mrs./Mr./Miss (1)

Good evening

Hi (informal)

Bonjour Madame / Monsieur / Mademoiselle 

 

Bonsoir      

Salut

Boh(n)-zhoor mah-dahme/ muh-syuhr/ mah-dah-mwa-sell

 

Boh(n) swarh

Sah-loo

Excuse me (2)

Excuse me

Pardon

Excusez-moi

Par-doh(n)

Ex-kyou-say mwa

Please 

S'il vous plaît  

Seal voo play

 Thank you.

Merci.  

Mare-see.

 . . . very much.  . . . bien.  . . . bee-ya(n).
You're welcome Je vous en prie Zhuh vooz ahn pree

Do you speak English?

Parlez-vous anglais ?

Par - lay vooz ah(n)-glay?

I speak a little French Je parle un peu français Zhuh parl uhn peh frahn-say

I'm here on vacation

... for work

Je suis là pour les vacances

... pour le travail

Zhuh swee lah poor vac-kahwnse

... poor trav-eye

I don't understand Je ne comprends pas Zhuh nuh comp-rond pah
Please speak slowly Parlez lentement, s'il vous plaît Par-lay lawn-teh-mont, seal voo play
How do you say ____ in French? Comment dit-on ____ en français? Come-ahn deet-on ____ ahn frahn-say?

Yes

Yeah (informal)

Oui

Ouais

Wee

Way

No Non No

Where are the restrooms?  

Where is ______?

... the hotel?

... the hospital?

... the beach?

... the airport?

... the bank?

Où sont les toilettes ?                 

Où est _____ ?

... l'hôtel?

... l'hôpital?

...la plage?

... l'aéroport?

... la banque?

Oo soh(n) lay  twa-let?

Oo ay _____ ?

... low-tell?

... low-pea-tahl?

... lah plah-sheh?

... lare-oh-pour?

... lah bahn-kh

Sorry to bother you... Excusez-moi de vous déranger... Ek-sku-zay mwa duh voo day-rah(n)-zhay...

...but I have a problem.

...mais j'ai un problème

...may zhay uh(n) proh-blem.

Can you help me?                       

Pouvez-vous m'aider ?

Poo-vay voo meh - day?

 

Would you take our/ my picture, please?

Est-ce que vous prendriez notre/ma photo, s'il vous plaît?

Prendriez-vous notre/ma photo, s'il vous plaît?

Esk-kuh voo pren-dray noh-tra/mah foh-toh, seal voo play?

Pren-dray voo noh-tra/mah foh-toh, seal voo play?

I would like . . .

  Je voudrais . . . Zhuh voo dray . . .

How much?

 Combien? Cohm bee-e(n)?
Do you take foreign [credit] cards? Est-ce que vous acceptez les cartes étrangères ? Es-kuh vooz ack-sep-tay lay cartz ay-trahn-jer-ay?
It's too expensive! C'est trop cher! Say trohp reesh!
I am looking for . . .   Je cherche . . . Zhuh shairsh . . .

Here.

It's here! (there it is!)

Ici.

C'est là!

Ee-see.

Say lah!

Let's go! Allez vous-en Ah-lay vooz- ahn

It's great!

... good

... bad

... terrible

C'est chouette!

... bon

... mal

... terrible

Say shwet!

... bohn

... mahl

... tare-ee-bleh

I have a headache

... stomach ache

J'ai mal à la tête

... au ventre/ au coeur

Zhay mahl deh teht

... oh vahn-trah/ oh couhr

Goodbye (until we see each other again)(3)

Goodbye (see you later/see you at another hour/later on the same day)

Goodbye (forever/ I'm never going to see you again)

Au revoir

 

À tout à l'heure

 

Adieu

Ah reh-vwarh

 

Ah toot ah luhr

 

Ah-dyooh

(1)     In France , a simple hello can be the difference between being treated with courtesy and being snubbed in a restaurant or store.  Never neglect to say hello, and add the appropriate title to be even more polite.

(2)     Say "pardon" when trying to get by someone, or bumping into someone...

(3)  "Au revoir" ( until we see each other again ) is the preferred way to say goodbye, even to strangers you will never see again because "Adieu," literal translation meaning " to God," if misused can be seen as an insult ( i.e. You don't ever want to see that person alive again). À tout à l'heure is a more familiar way to say goodbye, but can be used with strangers if you know for a fact you're going to see them later on.

In general, the stress should be placed on the last syllable of the word, and the last word of the phrase.  Also, in general, the "s", or "es" at the end of a word is not pronounced unless the word after it starts with a vowel. For example: Nous allons ( We go), the "s" at the end of "nous" would be dragged out into the "a" of "allons" making a "z" sound, but notice how the "s" at the end of  "allons" is not pronounced. ( Nooz ah-lohn). Why? Because it sounds weird if you don't, like a hiccup, or an extra breath in your speech where you don't need it. The French language is all about words flowing gracefully.

Following are some important phrases in Tahitian, with pronunciation guide in parentheses:

Hello (general greeting) Ia Orana (yo-rah-nah)
How are you? Maita’ i oe? ( my-tie oh-ay)
I am fine. Maita’ i vau. ( my-tie vah-oo)
Thank you. Mauruuru. (mah-roo-roo)
Bye bye. Nana. (nah-nah)
Do you speak English? Ua ite oe i te parau Marite? (oo-ah ee-tay oh-ay ee

tay pah- rah-oo mah-ree-tay)
I don’t understand. Aita i papu ia’u. (eye-tah ee pah-poo ee-ah-oo)
Please speak slowly. Faa taere te parau. (fah-ah tah-ay-ray tay pah-rah-oo)
Repeat please. Tapiti. (tah-pee-tee)
What is your name? O vai to oe i’oa? (oh vah-ee toh oh-ay ee-oh-ah)
My name is John. O Joan to’u i’oa. (oh John toh-oo ee-oh-ah)
Where are you from? Nohea mai oe? (noh-hay-ah my oh-ay)
I am from America. No te Fenua Marite mai vau. (noh tay feh-noo-ah

mah-ree-tay my vah-oo)
Show me the way to... Fa’aite mai ia’u ite e’a ... (fah-eye-tay my ee-ah-oo

ee-tay ay-ah)
Let’s go! Haere tatou! (ha-ay-ray tah-toh-oo)
Come here! Haere mai! (ha-ay-ray my)
Turn right. Na te pae atau. (nah tay pah-ay ah-tah-oo)
Turn left. Na te pae aui. (nah tay pah-ay ah-wee)
Please take me to ... Arave ato’a ia’u ... (ah-rah-vay ah-toh-ah ee-ah-oo)
I want to speak to John. Hina’aro vau e parau ia John. (hee-nah-ah-roh vah-

oo ay pah-rah-oo ee-ah John)
Who is this? Ovai te ie? (oh-vie tay ee-ay)
What is the name of this? Eaha tei’oa ote’ie? (ay-ah-ha tay-ee-oh-ah oh-tay-ee-

ay)
What is the price of this? Ehia moni te’ie? (ay-hee-ah moh-nee tay-ee-ay)
What’s wrong? Eaha te tumu? (ay-ah-ha tay too-moo)
Look! A hi’o! (ah hee-oh)
Hurry up! Ha’a viti viti! (ha-ah vee-tee vee-tee)
Take it easy! Haere maru! (ha-ay-ray mah-roo)
To your health! Manuia! (mah-nwee-ah)
This is very good. E mea maita’ i roa teie. (ay may-ah my-tie roh-ah

tay-ee-ay)
Do you want a drink? Hina’aro oe e inu? (hee-nah-ah-roh oh-ay ay ee-noo)
Are you hungry? Ua poia anei oe? (oo-ah poh-ee-ah ah-nay-ee oh-ay)
Yes E (ay)
No Aita (eye-tah)
What? Eaha? (ay-ah-ha)
Some visitors may find it easier to pronounce Tahitian words than French; while there are a lot of vowels, each letter is pronounced and that pronunciation never changes. Vowels A: pronounced ah as papa E: pronounced ay as bay I : pronounced ee as see O: pronounced oh as show U: pronounced oo as boot Consonants are pronounced the same as in English.  On the other hand, the grammar and vocabulary of Tahitian are quite a bit further removed from English than French is, so it may be challenging to understand someone who speaks back to you in Tahitian.

If you want to speak in English, think to speak slowly: Generally, French people don't speak English very well. And the English taught in France is the UK prononciation. For a French speaker who understand a little UK English, it is an added difficulty to understand American English. In the larger cities, you are more likely to find people who would understand some English than you are if you went to smaller villages.

Don't shout!  If they don't understand your English, shouting will not help. Also, there's a concept of a smaller "personal space" that may take some getting used to. Typically Americans need about 3 ft of personal space to feel comfortable when talking to someone. Of course this varies with familiarity. In many other countries, including France, that space is smaller and it is seen as being rude if you back up or jump back suddenly.