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Gilbertese Language

Kiribati flag in the wind

Kiribati (Gilberts)

Kiribati (or locally pronounced as "Gilberts") derives from the Gilbert Islands, which is the main island. The name of the Gilbert Islands in indigenous Gilbertese language is "Tungaru". The Gilbert Islands was named after a British explorer, Thomas Gilbert, who was the first European to discover them. It is home to about 100,000 of I-Kiribati.

Te taetae ni Kiribati

Most speakers use Gilbertese daily — about 97% of I-Kiribati is able to read in Gilbertese and 80% are able to read in English. Numerous I-Kiribati of Rabi Island (Fiji), Nui (Tuvalu), Mili (Marshall Islands) and other islands where I-Kiribati have relocated also speak Gilbertese. Visit "Culture and Communication Handbook" for Gilbertese learning.

Sample text in Gilbertese
I a butiiko ma kawiiremweko riki n taetae ao tai kaboonganai taeka aika a kaangaanga b'a I aonga ni waetata n rabakau.
Please speak slowly, and don't use difficult words, so that I can learn more quickly.

In Gilbertese language, "ti" is pronounced as "ss". For example, "Kiribati" has to be pronounced as "Kiribas". Here are several phrases from Kiribati Tourism website:

  • Mauri = Hello / Welcome - this is the word you will hear and use most while in Kiribati - an embedded sign of the friendliness and welcoming nature of the Kiribati people.
  • Eng Yes - also commonly used is “Ngaia”, which means “okay”
  • Iaki/ Tiaki No
  • Ko rabwa = Thankyou - Kiribati is a very polite and friendly society, and using “Ko rabwa” is always appreciated. 
  • Taiaoka Please - very useful in Kiribati and great to create a polite impression of guests with the local community. Can also be combined with “ikai” (here) to ask the bus driver to stop for you ; or if you need to squeeze past someone in a crowd..
  • Ngkoe = You (the person you are talking to)
  • Ngai I (yourself)
  • Tiabo Goodbye




What do you think about Gilbertese language? Do you know other Pacific language? Thanks for reading. Feel free to share this article if you like. If you have any opinions, please leave a comment. I love reading them.

Photo Credit:
kahunapulej

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