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Te taetae ni Kiribati

The language of Kiribati


Teraa n te taetae ni Kiribati? - Reirei Tebwina

What's it in Kiribati? - Lesson Ten


This lesson provides you with some additional tools for learning the language from people you meet. You'll learn how to say the letters of the alphabet, ask the names of things and how to spell them, and how to say something you only know the English for.


The dialogue in this lesson is full of blank spaces. Take turns with your teacher filling in the blanks and continuing the dialogue appropriately. Once you have the idea you can try it with your classmates. Use the pictures in this lesson, others around the room, and objects which are handy, to provide the props for your questions.

fill-in dialogue

Teraa n te taetae ni Kiribati?

What's it in Kiribati?

A: Teraa n te taetae ni Kiribati te taeka ae __________? A: What's the word __________ in Kiribati?
B: Te taeka ae __________ n te taetae ni Kiribati bon __________. B: The word __________ in Kiribati is __________.
A: Aia __________? A: It's __________?
B: E eng, ngaia. B: Yes, that's it.
A: Ko konaa ni kaboonganaa inanon te kibu n taeka? A: Can you use it in a sentence?
B: E eng, ______________________________. B: Yes, ______________________________.
A: Ko rab'a. A: Thank you.
B: Te raoi. B: You're welcome.
A: Ao teraa aran te b'ai arei n te taetae ni Kiribati? A: And what's the name of that thing in Kiribati?
B: Te __________. B: A __________.
A: Te __________? A: A __________?
B: Tiaki, te __________. B: No, a __________.

1. 2. 3. 4.
5. 6. 7. 8.
9. 10. 11. 12.


The Sounds of the Alphabet

The names of the vowel sounds: a = ah, e = eh, i = ee, o = oh, u = oo.
The names of the nasal sounds: m = mm, n = nn, ng = ngg.
The names of the nasal sounds: b = bee, k = kee, r = ree, t = see, w = wee.




When the alphabet is recited, b' and m' are not included separately. When the language was first written by Rev. Hiram Bingham* in the mid-19th Century he used the alphabetical order: a e i o u m n ng b k r t w. If you find a copy of his dictionary, this is the order in which the words appear. In modern times the order used is like the English.

*Hiram Bingham 18311908, American Congregationalist missionary, b. Honolulu; son of Hiram Bingham (17891869). In 1857 he founded a mission on Abaiang in the Gilbert Islands (now part of Kiribati). Bingham adapted the language of the Gilbert Islands to writing. He translated the Bible and produced, among his numerous works, a Gilbertese Bible dictionary, hymnbook, and commentary on the Gospels, as well as a Gilbertese-English dictionary (1908).


continuation of fill-in dialogue

A:  Ko konaa n tibeeranna?A:  Can you spell it?
B:  E eng, __________.B:  Yes, __________.
A:  __________?A:  __________?
B:  E eng, boni ngaia anne.B:  Yes, that's it.
A:  Ko bati n rab'a.A:  Thanks very much.
B:  Te raoi.B:  You're welcome.

Outside Activity:

Take a walk with an I-Kiribati companion, a sort of identification hike. Ask the names of the things you see along the way, and keep a list of them. Ask how they are spelled. Report your findings. You'll find that keeping a list of the new words you learn is a great aid to vocabulary building. Add these 'outside' words to the vocabulary pages you keep in your language notebook.

Kiribati page

© 1979, 2003 Stephen Trussel, ACTION / Peace Corps, The Experiment in International Living. The Experiment in International Living, Inc., prepared this handbook for the U. S. Government under ACTION Contract number 78-043-1037. The reproduction of any part of this handbook other than for such purposes as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, research, or other "fair use" is subject to the prior written permission of ACTION.