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Lost in Translation: Kerekere in English

Launching a new occasional blog series about the languages we speak and what gets lost (or added or changed) when we translate them!
Published by Julia Lane

Introducing the "Lost in Translation" Blog Series 

The In Common Blog team is excited to launch this "Lost in Translation" series. In these posts you can expect to read about common words and phrases that result in interesting (and sometimes funny) translations when we try to explain them in English. 

Our first post comes from English as Additional Language Peer Educator and frequent blog contributor, Ashley K.

Translating from iTaukei 

Since my family includes European, South Indian, and iTaukei ancestry, I thought I would share what gets lost in translation when my family speaks in iTaukei. Before I begin, I would like to clarify that iTaukei is the official name of the Indigenous Peoples in Fiji. Another name for iTaukei is Fijian, however, this word refers to Fijian citizens and not specifically to those who are Indigenous.

There are three main languages spoken in Fiji: English, iTaukei, and Hindi. My family typically speaks all three languages and sometimes a mix of both English and Hindi. The origin for these languages is due to colonization of Fiji. In 1874, the British claimed Fiji as a colony. It was not until 1997 when the country gained its independence. Interestingly, Fiji did not have a written language until the 1830s. With the help of colonists from the London Missionary society, an alphabet was created for the iTaukei language.

As for a phrase that gets lost in translation when translated into English, “kerekere” is a perfect example. This word is simple to learn as the language is phonetically similar to English. The pronunciation of kerekere is “kerry-kerry” - it's like saying "carry" in English, twice. When translated in English, the word means “request,” however, iTaukei often use it as a way to say “please.”

Thus, if you are ever wanting to use a courteous word in iTaukei, just say kerekere!


- Ashley K.


Image credit: Translation by Kieu Thi Kim Cuong from the Noun Project