8 Jan 2019

2019 is year to revitalise NZ Realm Pacific languages - SPC head

5:30 pm on 8 January 2019

The head of the Pacific Community says 2019 marks a perfect opportunity to address the desperate situation the languages of the New Zealand Realm countries are in.

Colin Tukuitonga

Colin Tukuitonga Photo: Twitter

The year has been earmarked the International Year of Indigenous Languages by the United Nations and Colin Tukuitonga said now is the time for action to save the languages of the Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau.

Mr Tukuitonga, who is of Niuean heritage, said it is a chance to regroup, rethink and refresh efforts to protect and promote usage of the languages that have been listed as endangered.

"Languages are being lost all the time around the world so we are up against it, if you like, but I also think there's been some successes. We've only got to look at te reo Māori and the resurgence there. But I do think it is a partnership between the communities themselves and the government."

Mr Tukuitonga said because the largest communities of the island nations live in New Zealand, there is need for the government and population to get behind promotion of such languages.

"The experts say that at a certain level you need a minimum level of native speakers speaking the language in order to transmit the language to the next generation and we are really not at that level in the islands themselves and that is why the New Zealand dimension is critical in the work on revitalising the realm country languages."

Colin Tukuitonga said families need to use the language in the home but governments also need to endorse such usage and provide resources.