Celebrating Samoan Language

Talofa from the Samoan Village and all of us here at the Polynesian Cultural Center. We love to take every opportunity to highlight the uniquely beautiful cultures we represent at the Center and what better way to learn a culture then through their language. This article was prepared from a series developed by Sione Milford, Samoan Island Manager at the Center.

Each of these proverbs are used by the Chiefs in many situations such as addressing an audience, special guests, weddings, funerals, visitations, inaugurations etc. These proverbs come from ancient stories, tales, legends, significant events, and even games.


Samoan talking chief at presentation

A Samoan Talking Chief greets the guests at an event at the Polynesian Cultural Center

“E lele le toloa ae ma’au i le vai”The toloa bird flies all over but always returns to the water.

This proverb refers to the toloa bird who may travel far but always returns home to the water.  The word ma’au means “yearn for home” which is the vai or “water”.  The proverb is also appropriate for today because Samoa is Celebrating 60 years of independence.


Samoan Man in coconut tree

In Samoan Culture, the coconut tree represents life.

“E le falala fua le niu, ae falala ona o le matagi” The coconut tree does not sway by itself, it sways because of the wind.

The proverb imparts the wisdom that things happen for a reason. Some reasons are easy to see and know. But some reasons are not seen only felt, like the wind.


Sister Louise Brown

The Polynesian Cultural Center is grateful for the hours of volunteer service they receive from many of our Polynesian Elders.

“Tautua nei mo se taeao manuia Serve now for a better tomorrow

This proverb exemplifies a beautiful belief held by all those at the Center. We are drinking from wells we did not dig; we are warming our hands from a fire we did not kindle. Our job is to maintain and leave it better than we found it for those who are coming tomorrow. Many cultures believe that we do not own the land. We are simply borrowing it from our children, our future generations, and we have a duty to preserve it for a better tomorrow.


Grief felt by a Samoan family in HA: Breath of Life

A Samoan mother and her daughter-in-law grieves for the loss of their family member during the presentation of HA: Breath of Life, presented nightly at the Polynesian Cultural Center

A logo tai ua logo utaWhat is felt in the ocean is felt in the land

This proverb refers to the concept that what is felt in one part of the body is felt by all the body. This also goes for groups of people including families and communities. Here at the Center, we believe that the attitude of our employees effects our guests.

Our community radiates Aloha, this feeling of care and welcome is felt by all of our visitors and they take it with them as they journey onward.

For our Facebook users we have a special treat. Creasepaul Tofa and Sione Milford presents three Samoan language videos which teach you the months of the year, how to pick ulu fruit, and the popular heads, shoulders, knees and toes. We’ll know you’ll love them.


image of Crease and John

Friends and colleagues Creasepaul Tofu (left) and Sione Milford (right) work in the Samoan Village at the Polynesian Cultural Center


We hope you enjoyed this in-depth review of some of the many beautiful Samoan proverbs which reflect the noble culture of Samoa and the importance of family and community. Fa’afetai, Sione Milford, for sharing your knowledge and your spirit.

For more displays of Samoan pride and activity, catch up on the 30th Annual We are Samoa festival and the 30th Annual Fireknife Competition.