Today marks the start of Tokelau language week. The theme, chosen by the Tokelauan community is, "Tokelau ke mau ki te gagana a nā tūpuna auā he tofi mai te atua" - Hold fast to the language of your ancestors as it is an inheritance from god.
Ministry for Pacific Peoples Chief Executive Laulu Mac Leauanae says the Tokelauan language is a treasure, which everyone has a duty to promote and preserve, and the emphasis is on young people to carry it into the future.
“The language week is also key in highlighting the importance of a strong sense of cultural identity, enhanced fluency in the Tokelauan language, and strong support by family members to advocate and speak the language for their children to follow in their footsteps.”
“Gagana Tokelau is an endangered language. The future of retaining the language and culture lies with the younger generations and it is important that during these language weeks we make them aware of their heritage.”
The Census 2013 recorded 2.4 percent or 7,173 Pacific peoples in New Zealand identified themselves as Tokelauan. The largest proportion of Tokelauans (49.1 percent) live in the Wellington region, with approximately 57 percent of these residing in Porirua. The number of Tokelauan language speakers has decreased in recent decades from 2,808 Tokelauan speakers in 2001, to 2,469 in 2013.
“The retention of Pacific languages and cultures are a growing concern in Aotearoa, particularly as the Pacific population continues to grow faster than the number of speakers of their respective languages.”
“This is why we encourage our communities to speak their languages in their homes, churches and community gatherings,” says Laulu.
The Vaiaho o te Gagana Tokelau official launch will be held today at Te Umiumiga a Tokelau Hutt Valley in Naenae.
A list of community events and an educational resource marking Tokelauan Language Week are available at www.mpp.govt.nz The social media hashtag is #TokelauLanguageWeek.
Tokelauan Language Week is the last of seven Pacific language weeks being celebrated this year.