Tahiti - French Polynesia

Bonjour! Comment ça va? Bien!
Ia ora na!  Eaha te huru?  Maitai!
Hello! How are you you?  Good!

When I was 21, I served a health mission for my church in French Polynesia.  I first went to the Language Training Mission (LTM) in Provo, Utah.  I spent the first 6 weeks learning French and then another 6 weeks learning Tahitian.  Two totally different languages.  I had learned Spanish growing up so being called to serve in a place that spoke two different languages was a shock but an exciting challenge.  The LTM was a great immersion program that was so motivating making it one of the fastest ways to learn a language.  Especially when you know you will be in that country soon teaching in their language.

French Polynesia is located in the South Pacific.  The largest and main island is Tahiti.  French Polynesia is a French overseas community (Collectivé d'outre-mer) making it a semi-autonomous territory of France.  French is the official language but Tahitian is the native language.  Both are commonly spoken.  French belongs to the Romance language group along with Spanish, Italian, Latin, Romanian, and more. Tahitian belongs to the Polynesian language group along with Hawaiian, Maori, Tongan, Samoan and more.

I lived in French Polynesia for a year and a half.  Eleven months in the capital of Papeete on the island of Tahiti and seven months on the island of Tubuai.  It truly was the most beautiful place I had ever seen and the people were the friendliest on the planet.  They made learning to communicate with them so much easier.  I wanted to be part of their great spirits.

French was a little easier to understand at first since I already spoke Spanish.  Tahitian took more effort but I was determined to master both.  There seemed to be a cultural divide between the languages.  When the local men got together they usually spoke Tahitian to each other.  However, the women often spoke French among each other, especially the younger ones.   When in a group of mixed company, several times the men would turn to the other men and speak Tahitian but switch to French when they spoke to the female missionaries.  When I realized what was happening, I began making a greater effort and would answer back in Tahitian.  Both my languages improved and the locals addressed me regularly in Tahitian.   That gave me a great sense of accomplishment and a greater insight into their hearts and souls.   They seemed to respect that and several of them told me that not many sister missionaries really learned Tahitian.

Learning French and Tahitian made my experiences in French Polynesia much more meaningful and gave me a foundation for world adventures for the rest of my life.

To learn a language, visit Duolingo, my favorite app:   https://www.duolingo.com/

If you would like to learn French (la langue française), I recommend:

If you would like to learn Tahitian (te reo tahiti), I recommend:

Thank you!

Donna Lansberry


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