Future generations will thank us for learning Pacific languages

posted: 8:45 pm - 4th August 2019
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(Picture caption: Minister for Pacific Peoples Hon. Aupito William Sio and other dignitaries join together with the Tokoroa Cook Islands community to celebrate the launch of ‘Epetoma o te reo Māori Kūki ’Āirani: Cook Islands Language Week 2019, at St Lukes Pacific Island Presbyterian Church.)  

Cook Islands Language Week is an opportunity to celebrate the important role Pacific languages play in the daily lives of thousands of our Pacific friends, neighbours, colleagues and loved ones. 

Minister for Pacific Peoples Hon. Aupito William Sio says language is used not only to communicate with one another, but to better understand our cultural identity, traditions, and history. 

“When we connect with our cultural identity through language, our wellbeing improves,” Minister Sio says. 

New Zealand does not speak with one language and it is fortunate to have many different languages being spoken in schools, workplaces and communities, all telling different stories about who we are, where we are from and where we are now, he continues.  

“Being surrounded by so many different languages provides us with an opportunity to learn and understand how others see and express their world - and the world around them. 

“I can think of no better way of saying that we are a proud Pacific nation than by recognising and celebrating the huge contribution Cook Islands Māori and other Pacific languages make to all our lives.” 

Cook Islands Language Week is the second of seven Pacific language weeks in 2019. 

It was announced in this year’s Wellbeing Budget the Government would allocate $20 million over the next four years to ensure Aotearoa New Zealand is home to thriving Pacific languages. 

The theme for the week is: Taku Rama, Taau Toi: Ora Te Reo” – “My Torch, Your Adze: The Language Lives, which essentially means, we strive to maintain our language. 

Minister Sio says the number of Pacific language speakers is declining and what this means is the stories our languages carry from one generation to the next will – without action – be heard less and less frequently in Pacific homes and communities up and down the country.   

“This presents us with a challenge about how to pass on our languages to the next generation, which is why our decision to allocate $20 million to establish a dedicated Pacific Language Unit in the Ministry of Pacific Peoples is so important.” 

This year’s Cook Islands Language Week has even greater significance than normal as it takes place during the United Nations’ International Year of Indigenous Languages. 

“In this year of global celebration, we can be proud we are making positive changes to support our Pacific languages and those who speak them. 

“However, our vision for Pacific languages will only be delivered if we work together.” 

Whether you are a Cook Islander who does not know your language, or you are just curious about some of the beautiful words our Pacific neighbours use to express themselves, this week of celebration is a great chance to start learning, the Minister says. 

Cook Islands Language Week was officially launched at St Luke’s Pacific Island Presbyterian Church, Tokoroa. It runs from August 4 to 10. 

Visit MPP for more information and resources.