Languages of Fiji


Languages of Fiji

Fiji has three official languages under the 1997 constitution; English, Fijian and Hindustani. Fijian is a spoken either as a first or second language by indigenous Fijians who make up around 54% of the population. Indo-Fijians make up a further 37%, mainly speaking Hindustani (as Hindi is known in the islands). English, a remnant of British colonial rule over the islands, was the sole official language until 1997 and is widely used in government, business and education as a lingua franca.

A small number of other indigenous East Fijian and West Fijian regional languages are spoken on the islands, standard Fijian belonging to the East Fijian group. Rotuman and Chinese are also spoken by immigrant populations.

History

Until the 19th century, Fiji's population consisted almost entirely of indigenous Fijians, who were of mixed Polynesian and Melanesian descent and generally spoke languages of the Malayo-Polynesian language family. After the islands came under British colonial rule, a number of contract workers were brought from India.

Fiji received its independence in 1970, but English remained the only official language of the islands, despite being the first language of only a very small minority. After the 1997 constitution, HIndustani and Fijian were given co-official status, although neither are compulsory subjects in schools. There is considerable debate as to whether Fijian should be made the 'national language', to help develop a unified cultural focus, although English and Hindustani would remain official status.

ee also

* National language debate in Fiji


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