TUVALU LANGUAGE WEEK: “Treasuring our language when our Island is threatened”

As we come to the end of celebrating Tuvalu Language Week, a Pacific health professional says it’s important to acknowledge the devastating impact climate change has had on the small island nation and the threat it has on its survival.

Malaefono Seve, a Community Health Educator at South Seas Healthcare in Auckland, moved to New Zealand from Tuvalu in 1996 with his family. He says whenever he returns to his home country, he notices the drastic change in weather patterns and the devastating effect it is having on the environment.  

Tuvalu is the fourth smallest nation in the world. It is made up of eight tiny islands situated midway between Hawaii and Australia with a population of 11,000 people (with 3,500 of Tuvaluans living in New Zealand). The islands are threatened by rising sea levels, coastal erosion and extreme weather patterns. Scientists have predicted Tuvalu could become uninhabitable in the next 50 to 100 years.

“Climate change is real and it’s happening in Tuvalu. We need to try to help Tuvalu and contribute whatever we can to their escalating crisis,” says Malaefono

“The theme of Tuvalu Language Week is ‘Fakatili Te Kiloga Fou’ which in English means ‘Navigating the changing environment’. This is the question for all Tuvaluan people. How are we going to navigate our changing environment? We have an obligation to let the rest of the world know how vulnerable Tuvalu is and make a lot of noise about it.”

Because of the uncertainty of his nation’s survival, Malaefono stresses the importance of the Tuvalu language and encourages all Tuvaluan families living in New Zealand to speak the language in the home.

“Treasure our language because it’s our identity and tradition, if we speak it to our children and grandchildren, then it will survive.

I like the Tuvaluan proverb ‘Ko tou malosi ko tou maumea’. Translated in English it means ‘your strength, your wealth’.”


Date: Saturday 03 October 2020