Valuing Pacific Languages

Last month Radio New Zealand ran an article about how New Zealand’s Minister for Pacific Peoples claimed that Pacific languages need to be better recognized and valued. Aupito William Sio said 2019 is a momentous year as the UN has declared it the International Year of Indigenous Languages (IYIL2019). The UN aims to raise awareness about the consequences of losing indigenous tongues.

Aupito said indigenous languages are important for a people’s development, reconciliation, good governance, peace building and general well-being. He said it’s important to protect and nurture Pacific languages for the well-being of New Zealand’s Pacific peoples and the broader community.

The minister said the languages are a national asset which add a unique vibrancy to New Zealand life. The minister cites New Zealand’s Pacific Language Weeks as a tool to raise awareness and promote the use of Pacific languages which are seen as increasingly vulnerable.

New Zealand’s 2013 census confirmed that language use had declined across all Pacific communities. The languages of New Zealand’s realm countries: Niue, Tokelau and the Cook Islands are classified by UNESCO as vulnerable or endangered. This year the Ministry of Pacific People’s has released the dates of the language weeks early so as to, “encourage more groups and organisations to get involved in the promotion of the Pacific Language Weeks,” Aupito said.

The Pacific Language Weeks started in 2007 with Samoan and now celebrate, promote and raise awareness of seven Pacific Languages.

This year’s line-up begins with Samoa Language Week in May and ends with Tokelau Language Week in October. All events now run for at least a month and some extend activities throughout the year.

Language Week Dates:

Samoa Language Week: Sunday 26 May – Saturday 1 June 2019

Cook Islands Language Week: Sunday 4 August – Saturday 10 August 2019

Tonga Language Week: Sunday 1 September – Saturday 7 September 2019

Tuvalu Language Week: Sunday 29 September – Saturday 5 October 2019

Fiji Language Week: Sunday 6 October – Saturday 12 October 2019

Niue Language Week: Sunday 13 October – Saturday 19 October 2019

Tokelau Language Week: Sunday 27 October – Saturday 2 November 2019

About IYIL 2019…

It is through language that we communicate with the world, define our identity, express our history and culture, learn, defend our human rights and participate in all aspects of society, to name but a few. Through language, people preserve their community’s history, customs and traditions, memory, unique modes of thinking, meaning and expression. They also use it to construct their future.

Language is pivotal in the areas of human rights protection, good governance, peace building, reconciliation, and sustainable development.

IYIL2019 will promote indigenous languages in five key areas:

1. Increasing understanding, reconciliation and international cooperation.

2. Creation of favorable conditions for knowledge-sharing and dissemination of good practices with regards to indigenous languages.

3. Integration of indigenous languages into standard setting.

4. Empowerment through capacity building.

5. Growth and development through elaboration of new knowledge.


Pacific Harbor, Fiji

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