Nearly everyone in the Cook Islands speaks English, which is an official language along with Cook Islands Maori, a Polynesian language similar to Tahitian and New Zealand Maori. A little knowledge of the latter is helpful, primarily because nearly all place names are Maori.

Cook Islands Maori has eight consonants and five vowels. The vowels are pronounced in the Roman fashion: ah, ay, ee, oh, oo instead of a, e, i, o, u as in English. The consonants used are k, m, n, p, r, t, and v. These are pronounced much as they are in English. There is also ng, which is pronounced as the ng in "ring." The language is written phonetically; that is, every letter is pronounced. If there are three vowels in a row, each is sounded. The name of Mangaia Island, for example, is pronounced "Mahn-gah-ee-ah."

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