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Internet Society funds Niue language lifeline

Internet Society funds Niue language lifeline

Rocket Systems, the internet service provider on Niue, has been awarded a $US10,000 grant to help it keep the Niue language alive.

The grant comes from the Internet Society (ISOC), a body that works to keep the internet open and accessible to people and communities throughout the world.

Rocket director Emani Fakaotimanava-Lui says the Niue language – Vagahau Niue – will survive only if it is in everyday use. And this means on the internet.

“Globalisation poses a threat to many languages, but particularly to the languages of small Pacific Islands like Niue. Most of the older people who are fluent in their mother tongue are living elsewhere and there are few written or on-line resources for younger people who want to learn,” he says.

“In the 2011 census there were only 1160 residents on Niue claiming indigenous descent. Of the 35,000 people of Niuean descent, about 20,000 live in New Zealand.”

As the first step, Mr Fakaotimanava-Lui says Rocket is building a website where young and old can work together to create a draft dictionary of IT terminology in Vagahau Niue. The young he says are internet savvy, the older people understand the language and culture.

“Once the Niue language gatekeepers have given each IT word their official seal of approval, we can create Vagahau Niue versions of all commonly used software and social media, as well as Vagahau Niue spell checkers.”

The next – not final – step, because the project will be never-ending, will be the creation and uploading of Vagahau Niue content to the portal. The Bible, constitution, legislation, literature, hymns, traditions, culture, heritage and history are obvious starters.

A wide range of English language resources – including much of the school curriculum – also need to be translated into Vagahau Niue.

“Young people who are fluent in both English and Vagahau Niue have good career prospects as teachers, High Court translators and as masters of ceremony at national ceremonies and festivities,” Mr Fakaotimanava-Lui says.

The Pacific Island Chapter of the Internet Society endorses the project. Board chairperson Maureen Hilyard says its members hope to learn from the Niue experience to assist other cultures in the region to reignite their passion for their language and to retain it for future generations.

Mr Fakaotimanava-Lui says the website and the project will be publicised among Niue communities around the world using online and conventional media, including community radio programmes.

“Clearly, many of the older generation who are equipped with knowledge of our language live outside Niue. Using the internet we can harvest their knowledge, getting them to assist with translations as part of a last effort to preserve Vagahau Niue,” he says.


Rocket Systems, a private Niue company owned by Emani and TaniRose Fakaotimanava-Lui, is the service provider for Internet Niue, a network wholly funded by the US-based IUSN Foundation from the sale of .nu domain names, mainly in Sweden.

The Internet Society (ISOC) is a nonprofit organization founded in 1992 to provide leadership in internet-related standards, education, and policy. It is dedicated to ensuring the open development, evolution and use of the internet for the benefit of people throughout the world.

ISOC aims to advance access and use of the internet and to empower individuals and communities to maximise its transformative opportunities.

The ISOC community grants programme assists a range of projects, including those that enhance and utilise knowledge sharing via the internet, such as through the creation of content for a specific community.


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