Tongan language week begins tomorrow

Press Release – New Zealand Government
Pacific Island Affairs Minister, Hekia Parata, says celebrating New Zealand’s diverse cultures and speaking their languages benefits all of us as Tongan Language Week, Uike Kātoanga’i ‘o e Lea Faka-Tonga, begins tomorrow.

“The theme for the week is Fakakoloa ‘o Aotearoa – Enriching Aotearoa with Tongan language and culture,” says Ms Parata.

“Language is enriching not only because it celebrates diversity but because speaking a second language enhances educational success. Put simply, speaking two languages builds bigger brains. This can only be of benefit as we work to improve educational success.

“Nurturing and retaining diverse cultures and languages also enrich us as a nation. I congratulate the Tongan community for taking charge of their language and heritage. This can only be led by the community which it serves and the Tongan community does this very well.

Tongan Language Week will run from 1 to 8 September 2012, it is the second to be held in New Zealand. The first Tongan Language Week was launched during the Rugby World Cup 2011 event, firstly with the community welcoming the Tonga Rugby team to Auckland airport, followed by the kick off Rugby World Cup, Tongan versus New Zealand match.

“As we celebrate Tongan language week, it is a good time to reflect on what our Tongan community continues to bring to New Zealand. We have witnessed outstanding contributions in academia, business, sports, arts and culture, and we want to encourage and support more of this success.”

Tongan Language Week is promoted by the Aotearoa Tongan Teachers Association in partnership with the Human Rights Commission. It is supported by the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs, community leaders and other organisations.

Census 2006 showed 50,000 Tongans live in New Zealand which makes it the third-largest Pacific group, after Samoans (131,000), and Cook Islanders (58,000). About 80 per cent of Tongans live in Auckland and just over 60 per cent speak the language.

Ms Parata says supporting Pacific languages and cultures was one of her priorities as Pacific Island Affairs Minister and that it is very relevant to her education portfolio.

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