Embracing Language as a Bridge Across Generations
In a vibrant celebration of culture and language, New Zealand’s Tongan community is coming together to kick off Uike Lea Faka-Tonga, commonly known as Tongan Language Week.
This annual event serves as a powerful reminder that for Pacific communities, language is far more than a tool of communication; it’s a cherished link that spans generations, connecting them to their ancestral roots.
Strengthening Language Sustainability
Barbara Edmonds, a passionate advocate for Pacific communities, emphasized the central theme of this year’s Tongan Language Week: ‘E tu’uloa ‘a e Lea Faka-Tongá ‘o ka lea’aki ‘i ‘api, siasi (lotú), mo e nofo-‘a-kāingá’.
Translated, it means ‘the Tongan Language will be sustainable if used at home, church, and in the wider community’. Edmonds stressed that grassroots initiatives, the practice of Lea Faka-Tonga at home, and total immersion in culture hold the key to strengthening and preserving this vital language.
Facing the Challenge of Language Decline
Statistics New Zealand data paints a poignant picture: Tongans represent New Zealand’s fastest-growing Pacific population, with more than 82,000 individuals calling New Zealand home. Yet, among this vibrant community, only 40 percent speak the Tongan language, and merely 12 percent of those under the age of 15 can converse in it.
These numbers underscore the urgency of preserving and revitalizing Lea Faka-Tonga, emphasizing its role in homes, schools, churches, and the broader community.
A Government’s Commitment to Cultural Diversity
“The Government acknowledges that our Pacific communities are essential to the diversity and cultural fabric of New Zealand,” Edmonds stated.
Tongan Language Week is set to feature a dynamic array of activities, from enriching workshops to captivating storytelling sessions and hands-on experiences in cooking, dance, and arts and crafts.
Edmonds extends an open invitation, urging everyone to join in this celebration of the language and culture of the vibrant Tongan community.
Thriving Together Through Language
Through steadfast support for the Language Week series, the New Zealand government underscores its unwavering commitment to ensuring the prosperity and well-being of all Pacific peoples.
Tongan Language Week will run from September 3rd to September 9th, providing New Zealanders with a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in the richness of Tongan culture and language, bridging generations and nurturing cultural connections.