23 Sep 2010

Study shows Pacific languages in NZ on way out

1:37 pm on 23 September 2010

A University of Auckland study suggests Pacific Island languages in New Zealand are in a worse state than previously thought, with more action needed to ensure their survival.

The study examines the four largest Pacific Island languages, Samoan, Tongan, Niuean and the dialects of Cook Island Maori .

One researcher, senior education lecturer, John McCaffery, says the study revealed a larger than expected language shift, particularly with Cook Islands Maori and Niuean.

He says if something isn't done about it now, such as introducing more bilingual education opportunities, in New Zealand these languages may get lost.

"The languages of the countries on the legal realm of New Zealand, that's Cook Island and Niuean, are in a very precarious position. Cook Island dialects are down to five percent of the New Zealand-born members of the Cook Island community and Niuean is down to 11 percent. So that's lower than what New Zealand Maori was when Kohanga Reo and Kura Kaupapa started. So it suggests very strongly that those languages will disappear from New Zealand within this generation."

John McCaffery of the University of Auckland