30 Jul 2017

Cook Islands language celebrated in New Zealand

1:40 pm on 30 July 2017

Cook Islands language and culture is being celebrated in New Zealand this week.

Wellington's Te Punanga O Te Reo Kuki Airani.

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Te epetoma o te reo Māori Kuki Airani or Cook Islands Language Week celebrates the languages spoken by the people of the Cook Islands.

The theme of this year's Cook Islands language week is: "Ei rāvenga nāku i te tuatua i tōku reo Māori Kūki 'Āirani ka anoano au i te turuturu ā tōku ngutu`are tangata `ē te matakeinanga - an encouraging home and community environment is what I need to build my love and my confidence to speak my reo Māori Kūki 'Āirani."

There are a number of cultural activities and events are being held across New Zealand, this week.

There are three distinct languages in the Cook Islands. These are: Cook Island Māori, Pukapuka - which is a Western Polynesian language belonging to the same language family as the languages of Sāmoa, Tuvalu, and Tokelau, and the language of Palmerston Island, which is a mix of Cook Island Māori and English.

There are also several dialects within the Cooks, including Aitutaki, Ātiu, Ma'uke, and Miti'āro (Ngāpūtoru)', Mangaia, Manihiki and Rakahanga, Rarotonga and that of Tongareva (Penrhyn).

However, the Rarotonga dialect is the most widely used dialect, both in the Cook Islands and within Cook Islands communities in New Zealand.

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Photo: RNZI / Daniela Maoate-Cox

While the population of the Cook Islands is around 21,000, there are about 62,000 people who identify themselves as Cook Islanders in New Zealand.

New Zealand's Minister for Pacific Peoples, Alfred Ngaro said the week would give New Zealanders the chance to celebrate the special elements of the Cook Islands.

"It's a language that needs all of us to do our part in keeping it alive, even if it's just learning a few phrases or one of our beautiful songs.

"As a proud Cook Islander I know just how special Te Reo Māori Kūki 'Āirani is and I'm looking forward to doing my part to to encourage people to give it a go."

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Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Recently there have been fears, that the the Cook Island languages may face extinction if they are not more widely used by communities in New Zealanders and the Ministry of Pacific Peoples is encouraging all Kiwis to use Kūki 'Āirani phrases this week.

Cook Islands Language Week runs until the 5th of August.

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for more Cook Islands Language week coverage.

Cook Islands Language

Photo: RNZ/ Walter Zweifel

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