Just to clarify, you’ll quickly find that nearly every Fijian wants to be your friend regardless of the number of words you know in the local dialect. The following will simply help to seal the deal...
1. Bula – Hello! Bless you (sneeze)! Good health! Be my friend! You can use this word as a greeting and general expression of good will.
2. Vinaka (vakalevu) – Thank you (very much). Vinaka is easily my favorite word in the Fijian language. In addition to expressing gratitude, it can also be added to greetings to express pleasure at seeing the person and can be used to politely end a conversation at any moment. Let the socially awkward rejoice!
3. Bula vinaka – Nice to meet you! This is a polite response after being introduced to someone new, and chances are very high that you’ll mean every word of it.
4. Yadra (vinaka) – Good morning. This is pronounced “yandra” and is the appropriate way to greet someone that you see early in the morning, though bula can be used here as well.
5. Vinaka na kacana, cana vinaka – Thank you for the food, it was delicious. Your host family will deserve this one, trust me.
6. Dre dre – Smile (for the camera). You won’t have to use this one much because Fijians are naturally stunning and very often smiling, but it’s still a fun one to say just before you take a photo!
7. Io - Yes
8. Seqa – No. Pronounced senga. Guess which word you can pair it with to be especially polite (hint: it starts with a v!)?
9. Seqa na leqa – You’re welcome. Don’t worry about it. No worries, be happy! Pronounced senga na lenga. You won’t hear Fijians use this one as frequently, but you’ll be a hit with other Frontier volunteers if you show up slinging this phrase around.
10. Isa – Oh dear! What a pity! You’ll hear this one used almost as a sigh, especially by older generations. If you’re ever unsure of what to say and you don’t think a bula or a vinaka are appropriate, isa is likely the right answer.
11. Grog – kava. Grog is the national drink of Fiji and you will have ample opportunity to try it during your time abroad. In addition to your welcoming & leaving ceremonies with your host family, you will also likely be invited to grog by your co-workers, neighbors, and by all of the new Fijian friends you’ll be making using this vocabulary.
12. Chillo – excuse me. Give two light pats on the shoulder or knee of the person next to you and use this word if you need to get up and use the restroom during a long session of grog. It also comes in handy when stepping over children in the middle of a marathon coloring session on the floor.
13. Sota Tale – See you again!
14. Moce – Goodnight, or Goodbye (when you do not expect to see the person again). Pronounced mo-they.
15. A trick word: the silent double eyebrow raise – yes. This one is used rampantly by Fijians of all ages, none of whom are being cheeky. You will see it in the classroom, at home, in the city, and soon enough, even in the mirror as you catch your own brows creeping skyward in agreement.