Pacific language resources a passion project

posted: 8:00 pm - 19th January 2020
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A group of people, passionate about Pacific language preservation have joined forces at Lift Education, to ensure these languages are given the attention they deserve in New Zealand classrooms.

Most recently, Project manager and digital developer Margot Sorenson along with Publisher Don Long; Quality Assurer Betty Vave; Writer Manuila Tausi; and Resource Designer Liz Tui Morris have produced a free, easy-to-use interactive online resource – Tauloto fakatasi tātou i lanu which teaches people of all ages colours in ‘Gana Tuvalu. 

Other resources are available in Lea Faka-Tonga; Gagana Sāmoa and Kūki ‘Āirani, and the resources cover pronunciation, useful words and phrases, and even some sentence structures.

Little things like this can make a world of difference to the way we interact with each other, like wanting to correctly pronounce someone’s name, says Project manager and digital developer Margot (pictured below).  

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“We want to make engaging resources that show kids teaching kids – kids want to share their languages and cultures too, and this is a great way of opening up that dialogue,” she says.  

Raised in Wellington, and coming from “a sheltered Pālagi upbringing”, Margot inherited the Lift Education Pacific Languages resource project from a colleague, who has encouraged her to learn more about experiences and cultuDon A4res she had been oblivious to in the past – and it has since become a passion project for her.

Publisher Don (pictured right) comes from a mixed family background and has family in the Cook Islands, and he began to study Cook Islands Māori, Gagana Sāmoa, and Te Reo Māori at Victoria University when he moved to New Zealand.  

“I began publishing resources in ‘Gana Tuvalu and Gagana Tokelau for the Departments of Education in Tuvalu and Tokelau back in the 1980s and it has grown from there,” Don says.

He has also developed resources in Pacific languages for the ministries, institutes, and departments of education in American Sāmoa, the Cook Islands, Fiji, New Zealand, Niue, Sāmoa, the Solomon Islands, Tokelau, and Tonga.

He recalls in a recent Education Gazette Tukutuku Kōrero article, Alana No‘otai, a teacher at Toru Fetū, a kindergarten in Cannons Creek that offers programmes in the languages of the Cook Islands, Niue, and Tuvalu communities, reported about 90 percent of their young parents are not fluent in their community languages.

“If that isn’t a wake-up call that more resources in Pacific languages are needed, I don’t know what is.

“As a society, we risk an entire generation of young people growing up who aren’t bilingual.”

There has been growing interest in the numerous teaching and learning resources Lift Education produces.

In Gagana Tokelau alone, it has developed almost 150 books in the last three years for the Tokelau Department of Education and the New Zealand Ministry of Education.

“For the Cook Islands Ministry of Education, we’ve developed resources in six dialects - producing these wonderful new website resources in the languages is one way we can give back to these communities,” Don adds. 

He says an increasing number of schools in the Pacific are leapfrogging what is happening in New Zealand. 

“In many Pacific schools – in the Cook Islands, Niue, and Tokelau, for example – there are programmes to ensure every teacher and school student has a laptop.

“Education in Pacific languages is rapidly expanding onto the Internet.

“In languages such as Gagana Sāmoa, texting among young people is taking the language into a whole new realm of expression, and bilingual education programmes are producing bilingual graduates.”

“New Zealand is being linguistically and (in our classrooms) technologically left behind.

“I totally get why there is so much interest in these website resources in Pacific languages – it is the direction things are going.”

Engaging with Pacific languages should be part of the experience for everyone growing up in Aotearoa New Zealand, he adds.

Next up, the Lift Education team are hoping to start work on the Vagahau Niue and Gagana Tokelau versions of the web resources.

Visit HERE for more information.