Kiribati Language Week Wikin te Taetae ni Kiribati – the third of nine Pacific Language Weeks – gets underway today.
“This year the theme is ribanan, karikirakean ao kateimatoan ara katei ma ara taetae ni Kiribati, which translates into English as, nurture, enhance and sustain the Kiribati language and culture,” said Minister for Pacific Peoples, Aupito William Sio.
With the Pacific nation in the grip of a disastrous drought, the Minister said Kiribati Language Week 2022 was an even more special time to be thinking about the future.
“Given the current crisis this theme sums up how the 3,225-strong Kiribati people who call Aotearoa home feel. This also aligns with the Pacific Language Weeks overarching theme of sustainability in what is the first year of the UNESCO Decade of Indigenous Languages,” he said.
UNESCO says at least 40% of the 7,000 languages used worldwide are in danger of being lost.
“The people of Kiribati who live in Aotearoa say they will embrace the future by utilising modern technology to promote, nurture and preserve their language so their past can continue to flourish – Kiribati wants to move with the times without losing the traditional way,” said Minister Sio.
Four groups – Kiribati Federation Association, New Zealand Kiribati National Council, Wellington Kiribati Club and Waipounamu Southland – have been working collectively on a steering committee to prepare content for the language week, which consists of a mix of online and in-person activities and events, including the Kiribati Independence Day commemorations on July 12.
“Data from our Pacific Language Strategy states 50 percent of the i-Kiribati in Aotearoa speak the language, 24 percent under the age of 15 speak the language and 20 percent of New Zealand-born Kiribati can speak the language, with 41 percent of i-Kiribati people born in New Zealand.”
“Kiribati is one of the only small Pacific groups which currently has the option of attending a bilingual education unit in Auckland which was established in 2019.
“We urge you to celebrate this unique language with us – at work, school, church, playing sport or in the home – kam bati n rabwa,” said Mr Sio.