Our Pacific Languages must be passed on

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Veteran teacher of Kuki Airani, Mama Tupou Manapouri, is hoping a conference held in Manukau introduces new thinking in Pacific language learning.

“Money cannot buy what we have. Money can’t buy what we know about language and who we are, the thing for me is to keep doing it as much as we can.”​​

Mama Tupou Manapouri is one of the knowledge holders and language champions who are exploring the Pacific Languages Strategy at the first Koloa Pacific Language Fono.

Centre for Pacific Languages CEO Ron Viviani says the discussions looked at the entire spectrum from early learning through to tertiary.

“There’s a whole range there, that’s only one part of the strategy. The other one is strengthening community-led initiatives for language revitalisation and maintenance and raising awareness around the value of our languages.”

Research from Stats NZ and UNESCO shows a decline in the number of Pacific language speakers over the last ten years.

In an attempt to reverse the trend, this year the government allocated $13.3 million to implement the Pacific Languages Strategy over the next four years.

Former broadcaster Sefita Hao'uli says that money is much-needed: "What it takes to bring it back is not cheap. You need all the tools if you like -  people who are experienced enough to be able to teach it and people have to be living long enough to enjoy it. To that end the challenge will be different for all our languages.

The Pacific Languages Strategy includes just over $4m for an online hub to appeal to younger generations.

Community leader Randy Liuevaie says he started making videos with his daughter because "I wanted to see more brown faces on screen".

"I tied that in with learning some of the languages. It turned out the videos we made was a pretty useful learning resource for the Vagahau Niue."

Sefita Hao'uli says the tools are now there for everyone to use.

"The tools of communication are more in our control. Each and every family have now access to the tools to make it possible."

Mama Tupou Manapouri, who's spent the last three decades teaching Kuki Airani in Auckland schools and tertiary institutions, is calling on the next generation to step up and continue the fight to save their language.

“My time is running out, I’m not getting younger, and I need young ones to step up.

"But it hasn’t been advertised enough, not just Cook Islands, but our Pasifika languages right across the board.”

PMN 20230614 KOLOA FONO PACIFIC LANGUAGES photo candice ama

“My time is running out': Cook Islands trailblazer says language must be passed on”


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