Pacific language weeks celebrate national asset
Hon Aupito William Sio
Minister for Pacific Peoples
20 February 2019 MEDIA STATEMENT
The 2019 Pacific Language Weeks will boost awareness of the value of New Zealand’s Pacific languages both within Pacific communities and beyond.
“It will be a particularly momentous year for languages because the United Nations has declared this year as the International Year of Indigenous Languages with the aim of raising awareness of the consequences of the endangerment of indigenous languages across the world,” says Minister for Pacific Peoples, Aupito William Sio.
“It is an exciting time for everyone because indigenous languages are being recognised internationally as important for development, reconciliation, good governance, peace building and lifting people’s general wellbeing.
“That’s why it is so important that we protect and nurture Pacific languages in Aotearoa both for the wellbeing of our Pacific peoples and the broader community. These languages are a national asset. They add a unique vibrancy to our national life.
The importance of strengthening and broadening the use of Pacific languages was a consistent theme at the recent Pacific Aotearoa Summit, held in November last year.
“It’s a concern voiced by young and old alike. Our languages are a key part of our individual and community wellbeing. We thrive when we hear our own stories, in our own languages, from our own people.
The 2013 census confirmed that language use had declined across all Pacific language groups. The languages of New Zealand’s realm countries: Niue, Tokelau and the Cook Islands are classified by UNESCO as vulnerable or endangered. Almost 60% of Pacific people are now born in New Zealand and there is concern that the trend will accelerate unless promotion of the languages is strengthened.
“To reverse this trend, we need to promote our languages not just amongst Pacific communities but more widely. They need to be recognised and valued in our schools and workplaces, in all walks of life. That’s what these language weeks are all about and I applaud the enormous effort our communities put in each year. Without this huge volunteer effort they simply wouldn’t be possible.
“I hope making the dates of these language weeks available early, will encourage more groups and organisations to get involved in the promotion of the Pacific Language Weeks this year,” says Aupito William Sio.
The Pacific Language Weeks first started with Samoa in 2007 and have since been able to build up to include celebrating, promoting and raising awareness of seven of our Pacific Languages.
The 2019 Language Week line-up begins with Samoa Language Week in May and ends with Tokelau Language Week in October. Although officially termed Language Weeks, all run for at least a month and some extend activities throughout the year.
Language Week Dates:
• Samoa Language Week: Sunday 26 May – Saturday 1 June 2019
• Cook Islands Language Week: Sunday 4 August – Saturday 10 August 2019
• Tonga Language Week: Sunday 1 September – Saturday 7 September 2019
• Tuvalu Language Week: Sunday 29 September – Saturday 5 October 2019
• Fiji Language Week: Sunday 6 October – Saturday 12 October 2019
• Niue Language Week: Sunday 13 October – Saturday 19 October 2019
• Tokelau Language Week: Sunday 27 October – Saturday 2 November 2019