Rotuman community to revitalise language

Pacific Peoples

The spotlight is on the language of the people of Rotuma as the first of the Pacific Language Weeks to be celebrated in 2023 gets underway.

The Pacific Peoples Minister Barbara Edmonds says the Rotuman language, Fäeag Rotuạm, is classified as endangered by UNESCO, and the Rotuman community is rallying during this year’s Gasav Ne Fäeag Rotuạm Ta - Rotuman Language Week.

“This is a time for all Rotuman people in Aotearoa to celebrate the language, culture and identity of the islands,” said Barbara Edmonds.

“It is also an opportunity for friends, colleagues and wider families to gain new insights in the language and heritage of the people of Rotuma who have made a new home here.

“It is a challenge to learn a new language, but Aotearoa’s Pacific communities are motivated and inspired to help keep cultures alive and be proud of our shared heritage.

“It is estimated there are approximately 2,000 speakers on Rotuma, around 10,000 in Fiji, and around 1,000 speakers in Aotearoa. In order to nurture this treasure, the Rotuman community here is working together to save this unique and beautiful language and culture

“The Hata Collective, representing many of the Rotuman communities in Aotearoa, has chosen the theme, Vetḁkia ‘os Fäega ma Ag fak hanua - Sustaining our Language and Culture, to kick start the 2023 Pacific Language Weeks series.

“The Sustainability theme aligns with UNESCO's international decade of indigenous languages 2022 - 2032 which recognises the right to preserve, revitalise and promote languages.

“This year, the Rotuman community have been busy planning online and in-person activities around learning through music, health and wellbeing and creating resources that will support long term language planning.

“I encourage all Kiwis to get behind Rotuman Language Week, and to learn something new about our Pacific neighbours – whether it is a word, phrase or traditional skill or song.”

“Speaking it at home, in workplaces, schools and community will help show how much we value our language and identity. 

“The Leo Moana o Aotearoa Pacific Languages report published by the Ministry for Pacific Peoples shows the significant role Pacific languages play in the daily lives of our communities.  

“For example, 90 percent of Pacific people use Pacific languages at community meetings, 82 percent use them with community members, and Pacific language use in recreation, sport and interest group activities is also an emerging strong point.

“We can help prevent the loss of Pacific indigenous languages by fostering them in our daily lives,” said Barbara Edmonds.