Keeping the language alive

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Title slide: Keeping the language alive

Rita Iosefo, Teacher, Supervisor, Matiti Akoga Kamata (ECE), Wellington

Classroom artifacts

It's really important for our Tokelau children to learn their language. To know who they are and where they come from. Their identity is really important for them. 

Rita Iosefo, Teacher, Supervisor, Matiti Akoga Kamata (ECE), Wellington, facing camera

And I think that's what their ancestors dream as well. That's what they want and that's what our community, our Tokelau community over here, they want. They want children that grow up in New Zealand, they want to know their language and their culture as well.

Students singing and performing

So we teach the traditional songs, the action songs and we read books and other kinds of activities that we place in our Tokelau way of living. Reflect back where we come from.

Jane Clifford, Teacher, Hornby Primary School, Christchurch, facing camera

So when the language weeks rolled around... We try not to make the language week the only week where we're celebrating the culture, most definitely. However, it can be a nice trigger for the rest of the school and the teachers to increase engagement there. So this year we wondered... We've sent our experts around the classroom in past years and they’ll act out some dialogue and some language and teach the class language. 

So this year we just created a quick site that teachers could engage with in the classroom when it suited, and it fitted into their programme a lot better. And there was games, there was a quiz, which meant children had to research about Samoan culture and language. And there was a quiz and there were prizes at the end of the week.

We made tapa segments during the lunchtime activities and we taught children how to play Suipi, a card game. Some of the older seniors. So there was a whole lot children could engage with on the site and that seemed to increase engagement with the teachers because they could pop it into their programme when it suited them and through the week. And I noticed that there were some other teachers that began to engage with the site and they needed to then ask their Samoan experts in the class to step up and help the rest of the class with the pronunciation. Which just really, yeah, really spread that out there into some of the senior classes where teachers may have been a bit unsure themselves about how to get started.

Keshmin Reedy, Teacher, Manurewa High School, Auckland, facing camera

If I know the language of the child I try to explain to them in their language in my science lesson. So that they do have a better understanding of what they are learning. Like at the moment we are doing stratification from the forest, so there are plants that has a native name and there are plants that could have an English name, a native name, and a name in another culture as well. So they can all put together. It doesn't matter, as long as the resource is there and you... we are able to identify the plant. That is more important than just being mono-lingual or something like that.

Bridget Kauraka, Head Teacher, Te Punanga o Te Reo Kuki Airani, Wellington

Images of centre

The purpose of this centre is to teach our children, especially Cook Island, our language and culture.

Bridget Kauraka, Head Teacher, Te Punanga o Te Reo Kuki Airani, Wellington, facing camera

Hence why our centre philosophy is “Kia riro te mekameka o to tatou e te au peu tupuna i ramepa turama no te uki ou e ti mai nei.” “Let the beauty of our language and cultural values be a guiding lane for the children of tomorrow”. 

So for 36 years now, going on to 37 years, that the main focus of the centre is to teach our children or families who bring their children to the punanga, the Cook Island language and culture. Because a lot of our children, that's including my children, are all New Zealand born and their first language is English. And to me being a Cook Islander here in Wellington, this is their identity - their language and their culture. They are born here in New Zealand, they are seen as Kiwi kids. But the language and culture is actually their identity that they are Cook Islanders born here in New Zealand.

This video is about keeping a Pacific language alive. The video features a Tokelauan early childhood teacher speaking about how vital it is for Tokelauan children to learn their language, to know who they are, and where they come from. The language is also kept alive through celebrating Pacific Language Weeks, other Pacific events, traditional songs, action songs, and the use of games, books, and activities that encourage learners to use their home language. Engaging children in their home language is important and teachers need to include it in their lessons and programmes. Keeping Pacific languages alive in schools also embraces Pacific learners’ identities and cultures.

Relevant ethnicities
  • Cook Islands
  • Tokelau
Relevant turu
  • Turu 1

Reflections for individual teachers:

As you watch this video, think about how you embrace and keep Pacific languages alive and thriving in your classroom.

  • Reflect on and share your thoughts about this Samoan proverb, “If there is no language, then there is no culture. If there is no culture, then all of the village will be in darkness”.
  • How do you embrace cultural knowledge and language competency in your learners? Do you think that if you use a learner’s home language they will be more likely to engage in the learning process, resulting in them achieving more?
  • How do you support the use of learners’ home languages in the classroom for a smooth transition between home and school?
  • Think of reasons why you should welcome home languages in classroom learning? How do you learn from Pacific learners who value their home language? How could you involve other learners to feel their home language is acknowledged and respected?


Reflections for staff or departments:

Think about how you celebrate Pacific languages in your school.

  • Reflect on why schools should teach young learners in their home languages. Share your thoughts.
  • How is your school celebrating and embracing Pacific languages to keep them alive and thriving in both the school and home environments?
  • Does your school system structure support the content and delivery of a curriculum where the learner uses their home language to gain a better understanding of the curriculum content?
  • Do you think keeping the learner’s home language alive in schools can help children navigate the new environment and bridge their learning at school with the experience they bring from home?