Although English is an official language in both Samoa and American Samoa and is widely spoken, Samoan shares equal billing and is used by most people for everyday conversation. It is a Polynesian language that's somewhat similar to Tahitian, Tongan, and Cook Islands Maori, but with some important differences.

The vowels are pronounced not as in English (ay, ee, eye, oh, and you) but in the Roman fashion: ah, ay, ee, oh, and oo (as in kangaroo). All vowels are sounded, even if several of them appear next to each other. The village of Nu'uuli in American Samoa, for example, is pronounced New-u-u-lee. The apostrophe that appears between the vowels indicates a glottal stop -- a slight pause similar to the tiny break between "Oh-oh!" in English. The consonants f, g, l, m, n, p, s, t, and v are pronounced as in English, with one major exception: The letter g is pronounced like "ng." Therefore, aiga is pronounced ah-eeng-ah. Pago Pago is pronounced "Pango Pango" as in "pong."

Here are some words that may help you win friends and influence your hosts:

hello talofa tah-low-fah

welcome afio mai ah-fee-oh my

good-bye tofa tow-fah

good health manuia mah-new-yah

please fa'amolemole fah-ah-moly-moly

man tamaloa tah-mah-low-ah

woman fafine fah-fini

transvestite fa'afafine fah-fah-fini

thank you fa'afetai fah-fee-tie

kava bowl tanoa tah-no-ah

good lelei lay-lay

bad leaga lay-ang-ah

happy/feast fiafia fee-ah-fee-ah

house fale fah-lay

wraparound skirt lava-lava lava-lava

dollar tala tah-lah

cent sene say-nay

high chief ali'i ah-lee-ee

small island motu mo-too

white person palagi pah-lahng-ee

Pea Soup & Corned Beef -- Many words in Samoan have English roots. Take the word for corned beef, pisupo (pee-soo-poh). The first Western canned food to reach Samoa was pea soup. Pisupo, the Samoan version of pea soup, was adopted as the word for corned beef, which also came in cans. Corned beef was and still is much more popular than pea soup.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.