Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Speak up this Tonga Language Week

Minister for Pacific Peoples, Aupito William Sio, is urging Tongans everywhere to embrace Uike Kātoanga’i ‘o e lea faka-Tonga – Tonga Language Week 2022, to help stop the decline in its use by the NZ-born Tongan population.

 “It has been so great to see the Ministry and Tongan groups around the country, who have delivered many wonderful language initiatives over the years, collectively decide to put a spin on the Pacific Language Weeks’ theme of sustainability,” Minister Sio said.

“The word Tu’uloa in the theme this year means to continuously grow, nurture, and sustain a valued idea, practice, event, or memory in an enduring way.

“Rather than forcing everyone to stick to the theme, organisers thought it would be more relevant to give ownership and responsibility to the community to interpret and articulate what Tu’uloa means to them.

“For example, a youth group might create the mantra Tu’uloa – ‘e mo’ui ‘a e lea ‘i he kaha’ú ‘o makatu’unga ‘i he to’utupu ‘o e lolotongá, which translates to ‘Sustainability’ – the language will survive in the future based on the youth of today,” Aupito William Sio added.

Statistics NZ have reported Tongans to be the fastest-growing Pacific ethnic group in New Zealand in recent years, with their numbers increasing more than threefold between 1986 and 2006.

According to the 2018 Census, New Zealand had a Tongan population of 82,389 that year, but only 12% of Tongans under 15 spoke the language in New Zealand – a decline of 9% since 2006.

In the recent Leo Moana o Aotearoa survey, 72% of Tongans said that listening and speaking to family members in your household was an enabler, and during consultation on the draft Pacific Languages Strategy in 2021, the Tongan community shared some of their insights on how we might strengthen and maintain lea faka-Tonga in Aotearoa.

“Tongans believe that encouraging grassroots initiatives such as teaching the language through various cultural values, learning lea faka-Tonga at home, and total immersion would support them to reclaim their language,” the Minister said.

“This is why the Government is also investing through the Ministry of Education in the implementation of Pacific bilingual language education throughout the education system as part of the Pacific Education Plan.

“During Tonga Language Week, many of the online and in-person initiatives will focus on youth and the passing of cultural knowledge from the elders to young people, through activities such as music, cooking, wellbeing, dance, arts and craft, storytelling and oratory – we want you to get involved, mālō ‘aupito.”

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