So you’re going to Fiji. You’ve already packed your flip-flops, super-high SPF sunscreen, and snorkeling gear, because…well…that’s what you need in any South Pacific country. But do you know what else you may need? A little book that will help you communicate with the locals in their mother tongue.
“Fijian Phrasebook & Dictionary” is the last book in Lonely Planet’s Pacific Phrasebook series (yes, I invented this name) and the most detailed one yet. Because it concentrates on a single country and its most prominent language, I would say it should be quite thorough and all-inclusive in its coverage of linguistic matters. But, is it?
The phrasebook comprises sixteen chapters: Introduction; Pronunciation; Grammar; Greetings & Civilities; Small Talk; Getting Around; Accommodation; Around Town; In The Country; Food; Shopping; Health; Times, Dates & Festivals; Numbers & Amounts; Vocabulary; Emergencies. Most of them (with the exception of Vocabulary and Emergencies) are further divided into smaller sections.
After some introductory information, there is a helpful pronunciation guide (which even discusses the stress and intonation of the Fijian language) followed by a surprisingly comprehensive (over 25 pages) and definitely very useful grammar manual. The remaining of the chapters are focused on vocabulary. They offer a great number of words and “handy” phrases on various topics: from meeting people to booking tickets to making complaints.
The phrasebook also contains some cultural insights as well as practical information, which are always desirable in this kind of books. Not only can they help you get to know the Melanesian country (at least a little bit) but also better understand its inhabitants and their ways of being.
Ease of use
As is the case with other phrasebooks published by Lonely Planet, this title is super tourist-friendly. Measuring only 93 by 140 mm, it truly is a pint-sized book, which can be carried with you wherever you go. It will fit any pocket, so you’ll most probably always find a place for it in your bag (or even a tiny purse, if you’re a lady).
Thanks to a very detailed table of contents, you can easily locate the appropriate chapter or section – I can assure you that finding the needed information will never take you more than a few seconds. And that’s very important, especially when time is of the essence. Believe me, you don’t want to be stuck in the middle of the road (in soaring heat) trying to find your way around.
Also worthy of attention is the phrasebook’s layout. It is clear and well-structured, which makes the reading/using/learning experience as positive and effective as possible. The font size is satisfactory for the pocket-size format, and the addition of visual elements (bordered text boxes, for example) further increases the navigational functionality of the book. In a word, you couldn’t ask for more in the ease-of-use department. This language guide scores really high – I’d give it 10 out of 10.
Would I recommend it?
Yes, I would; without a doubt. It is a terrific companion for your journeys: it’s small, it’s cheap, and it always has your back. Take it with you, and then after you come back, put it on the shelf. Because if one day you decide to start learning Fijian, it will be a nice starter book, which will give you a grasp of the basics.
Although some people point out that the guide is not without faults, I’d like to remind you that it is a phrasebook – not a Fijian language textbook. Of course it does not cover all topics in complete detail, but it is comprehensive and, in my opinion, well thought through. In over 150 pages, you will find literally everything you may need while in Fiji. You’ll be able to order food in a restaurant, do the shopping, and book a room in a hotel. But most of all, you’ll be able to greet the local inhabitants in their own language; ask them how they feel and how their day has been going so far. And, believe me, that’s priceless to them. Isn’t this a reason enough to buy this book? I think it is.
Thank you, Lonely Planet, for helping us learn not only Fijian but also a few other Pacific languages.