5 Tips learning Tongan for beginners

5 tips learning tongan

Here are 5 tips for those who want to learn Tongan as a foreign language or those wanting to improve their language skills. Learning Tongan does not have to be a chore. Follow these tips, and you will soon discover a beautiful rich language and culture.

  1. Immerse yourself. Ideally spending a good six months in the Kingdom would be the best place to learn Tongan. Otherwise immerse yourself within your local community (family, church, online) and simply LISTEN. Fanongo kihe u ngaahi lea. Listen to the sounds all around. With your family, at church, songs played on radio, programs on tv, or youtube. Listen for the sounds, the tone, the reflections in their voices. 
  2. Imitate. Remember how children first learn to speak. They copy the sounds they hear. Ma-ma, Te-Ti (Mum, Dad) are usually the first words they speak.
  3. Know key phrases. ‘Ikai mahino – I don’t understand. Koe ha ‘ae lea fakaTonga ki he … ? What is the Tongan word for …? Know some key phrases and words will help you learn quicker.
  4. Be a student.  Take notes and ask questions. Be inquisitive like a child. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake. That is all part of the learning process. 
  5. Have FUN. Learning anything new is always easier when there is some fun involved.
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Write a lunch note of ʻofa

Lunch note for my 7yo daughter
Lunch note for my 7 yo daughter

Kidʻs love to receive notes. Even better when it is a surprise. Try writing a note in Tongan and leave it in your kids lunch box if they are old enough to read. As you incorporate more Tongan words into your childrenʼ vocabulary and/ or yourself, they will soon learn to love speaking in Tongan. You could expand this to suit your circumstance. The possibilities are endless.

The picture above was a note I wrote for my eldest daughter. It was her first day back at school today. She started year 2 or second grade. I have noticed she is speaking a lot less Tongan since beginning primary (elementary) school. So I try to incorporate more of the Tongan language where ever I can for her.

I wrote a little note ʻofa atu = love to you. I thought she might have problems reading it but the love heart gave it away. Her reaction after school was worth all the effort

Tu’a ‘ofa atu