Be Proud of Your Language

Be proud of your language and grounded in your identity, that was the advice to Samoans living in Aotearoa during Samoan Language Week (May 28 – June 3).

Samoans represent almost half (47.9 per cent) of Pacific people living in New Zealand, and Gagana Samoa is the third most spoken language in the country, behind English and Te Reo Maori.

This was one of the reasons Pasefika Proud and Pathways for Change support the initiative – with the organisation believing that highlighting Pacific cultures and values were community strengths that supported family wellbeing and helped to protect against harm.

Nga Vaka o Kaiga Tapu is a community owned and mandated framework that underpins the Pasefika Proud ethnic-specific cultural frameworks.

A Samoan working group put together, under the Nga Vaka banner, released O Le Tofa Mamao – with one of its most notable features being the desire to maintain and protect peaceful relationships in families and between Samoan people.

Tofa Mamao refers to the wisdom of the family unit and how it is a critical pathway to fostering and nurturing wellbeing and strong and vibrant families all of which ties in with the aims of Samoan Language Week.

The Minister for Pacific Peoples, the Hon. Barbara Edmonds, said Pacific languages play a significant role in the daily lives of our communities.

She pointed to the Leo Moana o Aotearoa Survey, published last year, which indicated 84 per cent of Samoans believed it was important to be able to speak Gagana Samoa and almost the same number of people used digital technology and the media to help them connect more to their language and culture.

“No matter where you are on your language journey, I want to encourage everyone to speak and share our Samoan language as much as possible,” the Minister said.

Further advice given to Samoans for Language Week included four key areas:

Be proud of your ancestral language – including signs, symbols environmental landmarks, events and other intangible language all serving as a reminder of life from past generations.

Be proud of your spiritual language – the Samoan language is a pillar in the church and is nurtured in activities such as Sunday School, youth groups, choirs, and church services. The church plays a key role in ensuring the Samoan language thrives.

Be proud of your language in your families – language pride begins at home. The family is the first classroom for Samoans where they are told how to speak and show respect to elders. If you are strong in your Samoan language, you never have to question who you are as a Samoan.

Be proud of your written language – the language is adapting and changing. The written Samoan language is becoming more valued in schools, workplaces, and many areas, making it more vital for people to be able to understand, speak and write Samoan.