"Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened." -Dr. Seuss
Question #89536 posted on 06/03/2017 12:26 p.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

I was just sitting here browsing through the board and chilling with my roommates when one of my roommates asked if we thought that there were more than 10 people in the world who fluently spoke both Fijian and Spanish. We were pretty sure that there were, but then he asked, "But WHO?"

So I guess my first question is, are any of you able to provide irrefutable evidence that at least 10 people in the world are fluent in both? And the second question is, do you know of anyone by name who speaks both?

-Bilinguist

A:

Dear Two-tongue,

I know of two, they both live in Seattle. One is from Fiji and served a Spanish speaking mission to Arizona, the other is from (where else?) Arizona, grew up speaking Spanish, and served a Fijian-speaking mission to Fiji. That's about it from me. Now we need to seek out the remaining eight...

Dr. Smeed

A:

Dear friend,

I also know two, both elders from Fiji who served in my Spanish-speaking mission. I think that takes us up to four, total.

Yours, &c.

Heidi Book

A:

Dear smoking gum,

Thanks for your patience with your question. I know it's been a while since you asked it.

I have a Spanish-speaking friend living in Fiji and I passed your question by him. As luck turns out, he used to read the Board a few years back. He said,

I would say yes. I know half a dozen personally who are conversational (on a basic level) in both, but fluent, that is tough. I can say that enough diplomats come through Fiji that pick up basic Fijian that I would say the odds are in favor of yes. Also, there are large Fijian populations in California that would suggest some are bilingual.

On top of that add the number of RMs from Fiji (though I have only heard of maybe one sent Spanish speaking) and then the number of RMs that served in Fiji who pick up Spanish later. It isn't a perfect answer, but I would say the stats are in favor of more than 10. As I said, I know at least 5-6 at the US Embassy who are fluent in Spanish and have picked up some basic Fijian (some more than others).

We decided explore some of the complexity of this idea by noting the difficulty of determining what "fluent" means, I am "AF" here, and he is "F," for "Fiji."

AF: It's so hard to figure out what "fluent" means, anyhow.

F: Absolutely! Plus there are about 50 dialects of Fijian. Bau Fijian is the standard language [in Fiji] alongside English and Hindi. Every Fijians speaks 2-4 languages. There are 333 islands in Fiji.

The challenge for expats learning Fijian is that English is the official language of government and business. And even if you learn Fijian you will only ever be partially fluent, depending on who you talk to and which island they are from.

AF: I could see how that would make it difficult.
 
F: And half the population is Indian, so then you have several versions of Hindi and Urdu to work through. English just keeps it simple.

AF: And isn't it like the west side of the main island is mostly Indian or something? Different regional concentrations of people?

F: Kind of...It is pretty mixed. There are definitely pockets, but the Indo Fijians are pretty well mixed by now. Also, just as an FYI, Fijian/Hindi, Fijian/French and Fijian/Korean combos are more common than Fijian/Spanish.
 
AF: That is interesting to know. Koreans everywhere.

F: Yeah, they like Fiji for some reason. A big Christian Church decided that Fiji was Zion and moved here... I [also] have a couple Korean kids in my YM. One picked up both English and Fijian while [in Fiji].
The day after we talked, he said the following:
 
"So my wife just informed me that there is a Spanish consulate in Fiji, so I would say that increases the odds substantially."
 
I subsequently learned there was indeed a Spanish honorary consulate in Suva, Fiji. I do not know how big the Spanish honorary consulate is, but probably it is not very large. The head of this diplomatic mission is one Mr. Stewart Hugget, Honorary Consul. I did reach out to him regarding your inquiry, but he did not respond.
 
No leads there. The  Wikipedia list of diplomatic missions in Fiji indicates the following Spanish-speaking nations have diplomatic relations with Fiji in New York:
  • Bolivia
  • Costa Rica
  • Ecuador
  • El Salvador
  • Guatemala
  • Honduras
  • Nicaragua
  • Panama

The following Spanish-speaking nations have Accredited Embassies in Canberra, Australia:

  • Argentina
  • Chile
  • Cuba

Of course, since official business is conducted in English it is unlikely much Fijian is spoken by foreign officials. Does this help us find our ten dual speakers? Not really.

To review, Dr. Smeed knows two Fijian-Spanish speakers, Heidi Book knows two, my friend knows of one Fijian missionary who served Spanish-speaking and personally knows a handful of people who are fluent in Spanish and at least conversational in both. Spectre mentioned recently he learned of another dual speaker, so we have six confirmed and five or six possible additional dual speakers ...depending on how strict you decide to be in your definition of fluency. For the purposes of this answer, we are assuming the Fijian dialect spoken by is Bau Fijian.

In total, we have six people fluent in both languages and at least five or six others with varying levels of proficiency in Fijian.

TL; DR: Are there ten dual speakers worldwide? There are enough Fijians in Spanish-speaking portions of the USA or who have served in Spanish-speaking missions over the years that I believe there are. Do we, the Board, collectively know all of them?

Well, no. And maybe.

Suerte,

--Ardilla Feroz