Samoan Language Week (Sunday 29 May – Saturday 4 June) will have special meaning this year as Samoa celebrates 60 years of independence, Minister for Pacific Peoples, Aupito William Sio said on Sunday.
“This is the year of Samoa in the Pacific and we begin this week in Aotearoa with the celebration of ‘Le Vaiaso o le Gagana Samoa’, Samoan Language week,” the Minister said.
Samoans are one of the fastest-growing populations in Aotearoa New Zealand, with the Samoan population representing 47.9% of Pacific people in Aotearoa, making it the largest Pacific population.
Gagana Samoa is the third most spoken language in Aotearoa – following English and Te Reo Māori – and the second most spoken language in Auckland – after English, however its use is declining rapidly, the Minister said.
“If we have the right tools, we can definitely revitalise Gagana Samoa to keep it alive and thriving – I encourage you to take part in the many online language week activities, and to continue using Samoan words and phrases throughout the year,” he said.
This year the theme of Le Vaiaso o le Gagana Samoa – Samoa Language Week is Fa’aauau le Folauga i le Va’a o Tautai, which translates as ‘Continue the Voyage with Wayfinders of the Ocean’.
This theme aligns with the Pacific Language Weeks overarching theme of sustainability, and the start of the UNESCO Decade of Indigenous Languages, which recognises the right to preserve, revitalize and promote languages, and linguistic diversity in sustainable development.
“UNESCO says at least 40% of the 7,000 languages used worldwide are in danger of being lost.
“My Ministry is working on the launch of the All-of-Government Pacific Language Strategy which outlines the Government’s commitment to ensuring Pacific languages and cultures thrive in Aotearoa New Zealand.
“We mustn’t forget Gagana Samoa and Samoa are so important to us. It is the only nation New Zealand has joined in a Treaty of Friendship and we’ll also be marking the 60th anniversary since that Treaty was signed 1st August 1962, following independence. That Treaty is about our mutual desire to gain social progress for Tagata Samoans and our language is critical in achieving this,” Minister Sio said.