Climate change will have a profound impact on Pacific languages

The Minister for Pacific Peoples, Aupito William Sio says when he was in Tuvalu recently for the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), the leaders reaffirmed climate change as the single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and wellbeing of the peoples of the Pacific, but it was the youth of the Pacific region who reminded everyone that one of the issues often overlooked is the effect this crisis could have on Pacific languages.

“Pacific youth reminded all of us at the PIF meetings that their languages and cultures are an integral part of their identities and personal wellbeing and we should do all we can to ensure it is safeguarded and passed onto future generations,” says Aupito William Sio.

“Their passionate voices, while standing on land that is literally being swallowed up by the sea, moved me profoundly with a sense of urgency to increase our global solidarity for urgent and immediate action with our common concerns.

“That’s why one of my priorities as Minister is to make sure young Pacific people who call Aotearoa their home grow up being able to thrive and be confident in the future of their own Tuvaluan language.

Tuvalu Language Week starts on Sunday, providing us with an opportunity to reflect on how the words we use help to foster an understanding of the world we live in and inspire us to take action to build a prosperous future.

“Languages are powerful. They not only provide us with the means to describe issues with great accuracy, they allow us to attach metaphorical meaning to these issues. Words can evoke emotional responses in people much more than graphs or reports can.

“We in New Zealand are demonstrating that the protection and safeguarding of the right of Pacific peoples to self-determine the future of their languages and cultures is part and parcel of our climate change action which also aligns with the voices of the Pacific youth in Aotearoa.

“Aotearoa New Zealand is home to a young, proud and talented population of Tuvalu people, over half of whom are under the age of 20 years. 

“That’s why the decision to allocate more than $20 million over the next four years for a dedicated Pacific Languages Unit to ensure Aotearoa New Zealand is home to thriving Pacific languages is such a crucial part of our wellbeing agenda,” says Aupito William Sio.

Tuvalu Language Week is the fourth of seven Pacific language weeks that will take place in 2019 and will run from Sunday 29 September to Saturday 5 October.

The theme for this year’s Tuvalu Language Week is “Lakei mo te manuia ataeao”, or, in English, “striving for a prosperous future”.

Note to editors

Tuvalu Language Week will be officially launched on Saturday 28 September at 7pm at the Church Unlimited Hall, 3 Te Atatu Road, Auckland.

Further information about Tuvalu Language Week including resources can be found here.