Nurturing and embracing the Niuean language

  • Hon Aupito William Sio
Pacific Peoples

“There is much anticipation and excitement as the Niuean community are mobilised across New Zealand to celebrate Vagahau Niue Language Week, which gets underway today,” says Minister for Pacific Peoples Aupito William Sio.

Vagahau Niue Trust has set the theme for the week: Tama Niue, Leveki Ti Ofaofa e Vagahau Niue, translated as Niue Child, Nurture and Embrace Vagahau Niue.

“The concept behind the theme is to encourage the next generation to not only nurture, but to embrace the Niuean language.

“This year’s theme also aligns perfectly with Vagahau Niue Trust’s purpose to ‘inspire and encourage Niue peoples to protect, preserve, promote and develop Vagahau Niue’.

Based on the 2013 census the number of Niuean people living in New Zealand was at 18,555. The median age was 20.4 years and 78.9 percent (18,465) were born in New Zealand.

“These statistics indicate a very young and fast-growing Niuean population in New Zealand with many born in New Zealand.

“The Niuean language is currently classified by UNESCO as a ‘definitely endangered language’. This means that children no longer learn the language as mother tongue in the home and this is a real concern. Niue is an island country of the realm of New Zealand and its people are New Zealand citizens. New Zealand therefore has an important role to play in protecting the future survival of the language.

Retaining our Pacific languages and ensuring its survival also ensures we are empowering our future generation with a proud legacy of bilingualism, confidence in our culture, and resilience in their future endeavours.

“A comparison between the 2006 and 2013 census shows a gradual decrease in the language and this reiterates how imperative the Pacific Language Weeks, supported by the Ministry for Pacific Peoples are, to re-ignite a generation to re-learn their language and culture.

“Language is inextricably linked to identity and that is why continued use is imperative. We want people to be proud of their language and cultural heritage and to protect its future.

“It is part of knowing ourselves and ensuring this rich heritage can be passed on to the next generation and the continuum of our languages and culture is kept alive,” says Aupito William Sio.

Note to editors:

Vagahau Niue Language Week runs from Sunday 14 October to Saturday 20 October 2018 and will be officially launched today at 3.30pm by Pacific Peoples Minister Aupito William Sio at Favona Primary School, Wakefield Road, Favona, Auckland.

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