8 Oct 2013

Teacher says first Fijian language week unites all Fijian people in NZ

5:34 pm on 8 October 2013

A Pasifika teacher says the first-ever Fijian language week in New Zealand unites all Fijian people despite their differences.

The week-long event which was launched on Monday, is being promoted by various organisations, businesses, including the Auckland Fiji Community, Victoria University in Wellington and the Canterbury Fiji Community.

Under Fiji's constitution, the term Fijian refers to all people living in Fiji, regardless of race.

A lecturer in Fiji's Bau dialect at the Pasifika Education Centre in Auckland, Tarisi Vunidilo told Beverley Tse about the significance of the event.

TARISI VUNIDILO: The main idea is to really bring the Fijian language out into the community and to celebrate the language here in Aotearoa.

BEVERLEY TSE: Now, when you talk about the Fijian language, are you referring to the iTaukei language or all of the languages spoken in Fiji?

TV: The languages that we are teaching at the moment is what we call Bau language. It is iTaukei language and it is one of the national languages back in Fiji. The one that we're celebrating is the iTaukei language or the Bau language that everyone in Fiji can speak, despite the background you come from.

BT: Now, given the past controversy over the definition of 'Fijian', does this language week encompass all Fijian people or just the iTaukei people?

TV: Actually, this celebration of the week is for everybody, despite your background, 'cause Fiji is a very cosmopolitan country. We've got Chinese, we've got Europeans, Indians and even Pacific Islanders. We've got third, fourth generation Samoans and even Micronesians. So this celebration of the Fijian language week is a way to bring everybody together.

BT: What's the state of the Fijian language in New Zealand? Is it something that needs to be promoted because it's dying or is it quite widely spoken?

TV: Fijian language even back home is still widely used and that's something that we're happy to hear. But I think in New Zealand many of the younger generation are born here and English is much more the preferred language. But through these language celebrations we're trying to promote it even more, especially parents to encourage the use of the language at home.

BT: And do you think it is significant because it's bringing together all cultures that are a part of Fiji?

TV: Absolutely. Absolutely, Beverley. That's something that is really special. And a lot of us organisers are very emotional about it because you've got everybody coming together. So despite all the differences, all the other political issues that affect Fiji, that Fiji is known for within the media, this week is something that has made us forget all about our differences.