Tongan Language Week: “Strength in Unity”

Tongan families living in New Zealand should always speak the language in the home to ensure the culture thrives, says a Pacific community leader.

Reverend Hiueni Nuku, chairperson of the Wellington Tongan Leaders Council, says elders should speak to their families and children in Tongan, especially when there continues to be families migrating to New Zealand.

“As Tongans and Kiwis living in Aotearoa, it is important for us to play our role to maintain our Tongan language and culture here in Aotearoa.  We need to recognise the value of our language and work hard to empower our New Zealand-born Tongans to speak the language at home, church and in other Tongan environments they are involved in,” says Rev. Nuku.

“A high percentage of their time is spent at school, so they only have a limited time at home to practice the Tongan Language. At church, they run their Sunday school classes in Tongan, sometimes bilingual, but mostly in Tongan which is another great opportunity to practice the language.”

The Wellington Tongan Leaders Council, a Pasifika Futures partner, is an organisation of Tongan church ministers and community leaders who work towards improving the health, wellbeing and financial independence of Tongan families living in Wellington.

Each year the council teams up with local organisations such as the Porirua District Council and other community groups in Wellington, to promote Tongan Language Week. On Sunday 6 September, they celebrated the launch by hosting an online livestream with the Ministry of Pacific People’s which included several distinguished leaders and the promotion of this year’s theme; “Fakakoloa ‘o Aotearoa ‘aki ‘a e Lotu Mo’oni” which means “enriching Aotearoa through prayer and faith”.

“This is a time for our leaders and church ministers to connect with our community to promote the importance of our language and culture so we will always have that connection.”

“My favourite Tongan Proverb is “Takanga ‘Enau Fohe”.  This proverb relates to the rowing of the Kalia and encourages the rowers to row at the same time, so that it drives the Kalia in the direction they are aiming for. When the speed and timing of their rowing are in sync, this will make the Kalia sail faster and the Kalia will stand out in performance. This is the heart of the proverb – strength in unity.

I like this proverb because it reflects the work we need to do as a community to ensure that our language and culture thrives in Aotearoa.”


Date: Friday 11 September 2020