I was a bit disappointed to find out that the subtitles for the Moana Blu-ray did not include the original or translated lyrics for "We Know the Way".

Here's the song in full, and the beginning of the song is done in Tokelauan:

This Bustle article attempts to translate the lyrics, however they don't use Tokelauan, but try to guesstimate a translation based on Samoan, Māori and Google Translate. Part of this reason is that only ~3,200 speak the language in the entire world.

But is there an official translation somewhere?


1 Answer 1


Yes, there's an official translation.

As I was writing the question, I finally found this information. Previously, when I attempted to find this information, it did not come up in my searches (which was months ago), but has now become one of the top results in my search. (I blame/thank indexing).

Te Vaka, the musical group that performed that portion of the song and was founded by Opetaia Foa'i who co-wrote "We Know the Way", posted this to their official Facebook page:

Now that the full movie version of "We know the way" is available on itunes, here is something special for our fans. Here are the full original lyrics and translations of this song:
Tatou o tagata folau e vala’auina
E le atua o le sami tele e o mai
Ia ava’e le lu’itau e lelei
Ua malamalama uiga o le moana
Va’ai I fetu ma isi failoga e maua ai ala
O nu’u fou avea mo tatou aiga
Aue aue
nuku i mua
Te manulele e tataki e
Aue aue
te fenua te malie
Nae ko hakilia mo kaiga e

(Removed the English portion for brevity)

WE KNOW THE WAY - Translations
We are voyagers
summoned by the mighty gods
of this mighty ocean to come
we take up the good challenge
get ready
We know the ways of the sea
we look to the stars and other signs
to find our way
to discover new lands
to make our home
oh! oh!
there is land up ahead
a bird in flight to take us there1
oh! oh!
this beautiful land
the place i was looking for
we will make our home

Opetaia also clarifies that the languages used are Samoan and then Tokelauan, not just Tokelauan.

I've transcribed the relevant portion here (but without the "ums" and such):

The words in Samoan and then Tokelauan just says:
We are voyagers called to the sea
Called by the great god of the sea
Who gives us a challenge/puts up a challenge
We take on that good challenge
So, prepare
We know the ways of the sea
Via the skies and the currents, etcetera

All those words are in there.

Keep in mind, though, that was an off-the-top-of-his-head recounting of the meaning, not necessarily the translation (as evident with the "etcetera").

1While I was looking into this, I found out that the "bird in flight" is a common theme when referencing land while out at sea. This is because birds tend to fly towards or be near land, so once they're clearly visible, land is generally close. At that point, you could start following birds instead of stars for the final stretch.

  • 4
    Excellent self-answer!
    – Möoz
    Mar 29, 2017 at 21:40
  • 6
    @Mooz And not originally my intent! When I wanted to get this info months ago I couldn't find it. Maybe I was just inept then, but I've wanted to know this ever since I saw it in the theater. It's my favorite part of my favorite song in the movie.
    – user31178
    Mar 29, 2017 at 21:48
  • 2
    @CreationEdge Inept or you've levelled up your Google Fu.
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Mar 30, 2017 at 14:12

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