22 May 2012

Preserving indigenous languages in Pacific a major challenge

6:38 pm on 22 May 2012

New Zealand's Associate Minister of Education Pita Sharples says preserving languages across the Pacific is a major challenge given their large numbers in some countries.

Mr Sharples attended the Pacific Islands Forum Ministers of Education meeting in Vanuatu last week where increasing literacy levels and recommitting to native language education were key themes.

He says there is a desire to preserve local langauges but says in the face of most things being conducted in either English or the dominant national language, it's difficult.

He says the Cook Islands for example is a country which receives significant aid from New Zealand and there is a lot of interaction with Cook Islanders living in New Zealand, so English plays a major role in their lives.

"It's different for different places but places like Papua New Guinea and Solomons there's so many indigenous languages that Pidjin English and English vie for first place."

Pita Sharples has suggested a follow-up meeting for Education Ministers to discuss the issues further.