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Govt must step up efforts to save Cook Islands language

Su’a William SIO

Pacific Island Affairs Spokesperson

MP for Mangere                        
4 August 2013                                                              

Govt must step up efforts to save Cook Islands language

The Cook Islands Language Week from 4 – 10 August  should serve as a reminder to the Minister of Pacific Islands Affairs, that simply saying it is up to the community to maintain their language is not good enough, says Labour’s Pacific Island Affairs spokesperson Su’a William Sio.
“Many elders of the Cook Islands community have said to me that it’s a huge challenge  to sustain the gains their children make by learning Cook Islands at early childhood education when there is no clear pathway for them at primary and intermediate levels.
“Children at ECE levels are quick to learn their heritage language in stories, song and dance, but unless there is a continuation of Cook Islands language taught in primary, intermediate and college levels, they’ll lose that.
“It’s hard for any child to maintain bilingualism in New Zealand, despite the efforts of parents and community leaders.  Pacific New Zealanders simply want to pass their heritage on to the next generation of Pacific children.
“The evidence we’ve seen from overseas, and particularly in countries where bilingualism is embraced, is that children are better for a bilingual education. Children who can speak a number of languages, or learn in different languages are smart children.
“The last Census in 2006 showed a drop in the number of New Zealand-born Cook Islanders able to speak their language. That cannot be allowed to be a continuing trend. Without a strong commitment from this Government towards protecting the Cook Islands language, it will be lost.
“As part of the realm of New Zealand countries, Cook Islanders have a right to be challenging this Government about the constitutional obligation of New Zealand to protect their language from dying.

We know our children who can speak Te Reo are very grounded.  If we lose completely the Cook Islands language, our children will also lose their heritage,” Su’a William Sio said.


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