Promoters of Vagahau Niue hope to prevent language from dying
Promoters of Vagahau Niue hope to prevent the language from dying.
Promoters of this week's Niue Language Week in New Zealand are hoping that uniting Niueans through events will prevent their native tongue from dying.
According to the last Census, 74 percent of the Niue people in the world today were born in New Zealand but only 11 percent of them can speak Vagahau Niue.
The Chairperson of the Vagahau Niue Trust, Mele Nemaia, told Beverley Tse about the importance of preserving the Niuean language in New Zealand.
MELE NEMAIA: We Pasifika people may look all the same, but the thing is when we open our mouths and talk, that's when we can actually identify 'She's Niuean' or 'That person is Tongan'. So it is something that we identify who we are as Niuean people and it is very important because we would like to continue and for our young generation of Niue people to continue to use the language. Our theme this year is 'Leveki mo e Fakaaoga e Vagahau Niue' which is 'Treasure and use the Niue language'.
BEVERLEY TSE: How widespread is the language in New Zealand?
MN: It's different from one region to another. In Auckland, because there's more Niueans living in Auckland, there's actually a few more programmes running for the Niue people living here in Auckland. But then again some areas like Christchurch, they're actually quite strong although the Niue communities in those regions are quite small. But they do things together and they really try their best to do whatever they can to make sure that the language is maintained or the language is used.
BT: Now, there was a study done in 2006 that revealed 25% of Niueans in New Zealand actually spoke Vagahau Niuean and only 11% of New Zealand-born can speak it. Those figures seem to be quite small.
MN: Yeah. The number is very, very low. And that is very true. I won't deny the fact that that is actually happening and even some of our mamatua, some of our elderly people, or even according to some of those stats saying the Niue language is a dying language. It is a statement that I don't want to believe. But that is the reality, and that is why we're doing everything we can now to make sure that this is not going to happen, that we will actually see our young people using the Niue language.
BT:What would you say is the largest focus of Niuean Language Week?
MN: One of the main things we really want to see is it bringing us together. If we do that, we're able to use our language doing different activities like the singing, the dancing, holding conversations, and just exposing our young people to the language.
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