Niue language week: what it means to learn a dying language

Niue language week: what it means to learn a dying language

Vaimaila Leatinu’u Be taught Niuean. Photograph/Michael Craig

This week marks Niuean Language Week. This 12 months’s theme is to protect the Niuean language and tradition for future generations. It’s applicable, given UNESCO’s classification of neon as an endangered language. Te Ritu journalism pupil Vaimaila Leatinu’u shares his language studying journey along with his associate Niuean and their wrestle to maintain vagahau Niue alive

This 12 months I made a decision to study Niuean.

My roots return to Ngāti Maniapoto and Samoa, so this can be a newly began journey right into a language I do not like.

I’m studying vagahau niue due to my associate whakapapa; which travels by means of Niue, Tahiti and Scotland. We each, nevertheless, lack fluency in languages ​​aside from English.

However why is Niue forward of Maori and Samoan?

The best reply is that they run the chance of getting misplaced. Maori have gone from 1 p.c of Ryo’s audio system resulting from post-colonialism to almost 1 / 4 of us fluent up to now century.

Statistics present that in 2018, Samoa was the third most spoken language in Aotearoa. There are about 198,000 folks residing in Samoa, so there’s a giant group of Gajana Samoan audio system.

The numbers differ markedly in Niue. There are simply over 30,000 Niues residing in Aotearoa and about 1,700 within the motherland.

In 2017, John McCaffrey, a lecturer on the College of Auckland, described the Niuean language as in a vital state and famous that lower than 5 p.c of New Zealand-born folks can converse the language fluently.

The larger image reply is that my associate and I wish to reduce our kids’s future fears about whakapapa, their cultures, and their languages.

I really feel Maori and Pacifica.

The three most painful phrases to say when answering a query about our language or cultures are: “I do not know.”

The most typical instance is when somebody asks: “How do I say this in your language?”

The theme of this year's Niuean Language Week is about preserving language and culture for future generations.  Photo/Michael Cunningham
The theme of this 12 months’s Niuean Language Week is about preserving language and tradition for future generations. Photograph/Michael Cunningham

It makes a few of us cease—generally shyly—and reply: “Sorry, I do not know.” Or, typically, we crack some self-deprecating joke that we won’t reply, which might relieve misplaced guilt for not realizing.

I’ve seen a few of these insecurities in my associate, as we study vagahau niue.

As a result of I do not go to Niue, I really feel like I exemplify the privilege that non-Maori have once they study Te Rio Maori.

Conserving our languages ​​alive for future generations

Though I’m conscious of this privilege in relation to te reo Māori, I nonetheless unknowingly trample with the shock of my associate’s interruption.

I continuously requested her questions that she generally could not reply or requested for voice memos for pronunciations she wasn’t all the time certain of.

I teased mama (injured) as a result of I assumed we have been sharing the identical expertise of studying to talk Niuean. I apologized to her, and I readjusted my conduct. I understand how tough it’s.

Being at school and checking your pronunciation and being illogically awkward. To match your self to your individual folks or another person who feels extra Maori or, on this case, Niue greater than you.

To observe talking your language in your house, some members of the family chortle on the failure of sentence constructions or pronunciation. This painful.

What I took away from studying the vagahau niue is that we should take a substantial amount of care and warning for the rightful homeowners of the valley of cultures that we don’t need, however wish to go in and take one thing from.

I’ve to be particularly cautious with my future youngsters, who can have whakapapa I do not talk with and thus not share the lived expertise of being New, Tahiti, or Scottish.

However I sit up for the hifi ulu (hair reducing ceremony) for our sons, the huki teliga for our daughters (the ear piercing ceremony), and the times once we converse in our whakapapa languages.

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