23 Oct 2018

New Zealanders called on to save Tokelau language

7:09 am on 23 October 2018

New Zealand's Minister of Pacific Peoples, Aupito William Sio, is calling on people to become champions of the Tokelauan language.

Tokelau and New Zealand flags flying in Atafu, Tokelau

Tokelau and New Zealand flags flying in Atafu, Tokelau Photo: RNZ PACIFIC / MACKENZIE SMITH

This week is Tokelauan Language Week, Vaiaho o te Gagana Tokelau, the last of the seven Pacific language weeks held in New Zealand annually.

There are more than 7000 Tokelauans in New Zealand, five times the number on the atolls, but use of the language is falling with just 2469 speaking Tokelauan at the time of the 2013 census.

Aupito said with nearly three quarters of Tokelauans now born in New Zealand, protecting and preserving the language was more important than ever.

The gradual decline had caused the UN heritage agency UNESCO to put Tokelauan on the list of severely endangered languages, he said.

New Zealand had to act now to prevent it being lost to future generations, the minister said.

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