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Language critical to Kiribati as it faces climate change

Language critical to Kiribati as it faces climate change

  • 12 Jul 2021
Kiribati LW FB banner Kiribati

Kiribati Language Week is underway, and it will conclude on July 17 when the Language Champion Honours will be awarded to recipients.

Kiribati is on the frontline of climate change says Pacific Peoples Minister Hon Aupito William Sio at the online launch of Kiribati Language Week yesterday (July 11). 

Language is one way to help keep its people rooted to their land and tradition in the coming crisis, he adds. 

Kiribati is home to around 116,300 people and is extremely vulnerable to rising sea levels. 

Despite the enormous challenges Kiribati faces as a nation, their language and cultural identity will keep them grounded, and proud of their heritage, Minister Sio says. 

“This is truly evident in the vibrant Kiribati community living here in Aotearoa, and how they celebrate Kiribati Language Week - Wikin te Taetae ni Kiribati.” 

In 2020, the Ministry for Pacific Peoples (MPP) launched the first official Kiribati Language Week, as part of the Pacific Language Weeks series. 

This year, MPP worked alongside the Kiribati Language Week Steering Committee Membership to plan the 2021 Kiribati Language Week and implement the changes to support the Pacific Language Weeks Refresh in 2022. 

“This Ministry has been working alongside the Kiribati Language Week Steering Committee Membership to organise events and activities throughout the week, which is based on the theme: Maubonian te teei i nanon te mwenga bon karekean te maiuraoi, te ongotaeka ao te tangira,” Minister Sio says. 

“In English, this translates as: The home is where we nurture our children towards a healthy, responsible, loving and prosperous future.” 

This year, all Pacific Language Weeks have the overarching theme of wellbeing, as language has been identified as key to the definition of Pacific wellbeing. 

A highlight of the week is Kiribati Independence Day today (July 12), commemorating the independence of Kiribati from the United Kingdom in 1979, and the inaugural Language Champion Honours, which will be presented at the closing ceremony in Auckland on July 17. 

Minister Sio says he would really like to encourage New Zealanders to embrace the wonderful Kiribati language this week and going forward. 

“I invite everyone to take the time to learn and use some simple Kiribati greetings and words such as Mauri (welcome), Ko rabwa (thank you), and Ti a bo (goodbye). 

“The people of Kiribati have a beautiful history and culture, and I am pleased Kiribati is now well and truly part of our Pacific Language Weeks programme,” he says. 

Learn more about the Pacific Language Weeks