This is the last instalment of Fanaura’s account of her mother tongue means to her. She is one of our longest standing Cook Island Maori translators.

The many dialects

Each island of the Cook Islands, with the exception of Atiu, Mauke and Mitiaro, as well as Manihiki and Rakahanga, have their own dialects, particularly of verbs and adjectives.  The exception of course being Pukapuka with a language totally different from the rest of us, but it is called Maori.

Map of the Cook Islands
The many islands of the Cook Islands

Here for example is the translation for the English words “speak”, “talk”, “converse”:

Rarotonga = tuatua, komakoma

Aituaki = autara, autaratara

Mangaia = koma (I think!)

Atiu, Mauke, Mitiaro = araara

Manihiki, Rakahanga = kauta

Penrhyn = akaiti (the ti has a si sound)

Pukapuka = talatala

Here is another example of a translated English sentence:

“Thank you very much indeed.”

Rarotonga = Meitaki maata ua atu ei.

Aituaki = Meitaki atupaka ua atu ei.

Mangaia = Meitaki ngao ua atu ei.

Atiu, Mauke, Mitiaro = Meitaki ranuinui ua atu ei.

Manihiki, Rakahanga = Meitaki (I’ve forgotten!) ua atu ei.

Penrhyn = Meitaki ua atu ei.

Pukapuka = Atawai wolo ye manaki (ye is pronounced with a ‘th”)

Naturally therefore, with my Mum and Dad, it was the Aitutakian dialect for us, but away from them, especially during the 5 years when my Dad was sent to Rarotonga to study at the Takamoa Theological College, it was the Rarotongan dialect for me at school, at play, when swimming with friends, at Brownies/Girl Guides, at Sunday School, and so on. So during our 5 years in Rarotonga, I spoke 2 dialects, Rarotongan and Aitutakian.

If one of the 3 of us unwittingly used a Rarotongan word, e.g. “akara” (“look”) instead of “akatau”, the other two would start laughing and mocking and teasing the now shamed person!  This went on all the time with me and my parents which made sure for me that I did not lose my Aitutakian dialect while we were in Rarotonga.

However, my father did tell me very firmly, that speaking in Aitutakian at a gathering of the people of Aituaki was fine, but at meetings of the Cook Islands people, I must speak in Rarotongan as that is the dialect that everyone understands.  Our Cook Islands Maori Bible is written in the Rarotongan dialect.

So all my life, I have used the Rarotongan dialect when needed, which includes of course doing translation work into Cook Islands Maori, otherwise, it is Aitutakian for me all the way!