Loss of language leads to loss of cultural heritage

posted: 8:00 am - 7th September 2018
Rev Kalolo Fihaki

The loss of language leads to the loss of cultural heritage according to Church Minister for the Methodist Church of New Zealand Rev. Kalolo Fihaki (pictured).

Language is vital in any society for people to communicate and express themselves, he says.

Rev Kalolo, who has a congregation of approximately 110 families at his New Lynn parish was the Secretary for the Tongan Language Week committee from 2011-2016, before stepping down to focus on the church’s Social Service Unit.

The Unit is a strong advocate for the annual Tongan Language Week, supported by the Ministry for Pacific Peoples (MPP).

This year’s launch of Tongan Language Week 2018 was held by the Tongan Church SIAOLA Trust, for which Rev Kalolo is the convener.

He says Tongan Language Week is an important feature on the calendar in New Zealand for many reasons.

“For a community strong in its culture and customs it needs the language to thrive, prosper and flourish; and it connects Tongans in New Zealand.”

Almost 100 percent of all activities at the Tongan Methodist Church in New Zealand are done in Tongan including preaching, Holy Communion, Bible reading, youth activities, the Sunday School syllabus, and the choir sing in Tongan, Rev Kalolo adds.

“Within our church we have seven Early Childhood Schools where Tongan is used… so for our community, the language is hugely important.”
Tongan Language Week encourages the preservation and use of the language, which is crucial as if it is not used, it is lost, he says.

“Native speakers I think are very important to have so to transmit culture from generation to generation.

“If the language is gone, cultural heritage is lost … language tells story of our own identity which give us our purpose in politics, social economics and wellbeing.

“Language gives us our sense of belonging, no matter how long you have lived in New Zealand.”

Apart from Tongan Language Week, Rev Kalolo says there are other things that can be done to help preserve and promote the use of Tongan language.

“We need to build partnerships in the community with those who speak the language and practice the culture; include Tongan as part of NCEA language credits; teach Tongan at Sunday School; and let the community take ownership.

“People can also learn Tongan via the Internet and we can encourage people to utilise the ECE language nests available to communities.”

There is much more that can be done with the right support, funding and guidance, to promote and encourage the use of Tongan in New Zealand, he adds, but getting involved and behind Tongan Language Week is a good start.

Visit MPP to see what the Ministry is doing around Languages, Culture and Identity.