26 May 2015

School children revive Samoan language

From , 3:03 pm on 26 May 2015

Children in South Auckland are braving the winter weather in traditional Samoan attire this week to celebrate Samoan language week.

Weymouth Primary School's principal Saane Faaofo-Oldehaver dancing with the school's students

Weymouth Primary School's principal Saane Faaofo-Oldehaver dancing with the school's students

Photo: RNZI / Indira Moala

New Zealanders all over the country will also join in by participating in debates, cooking traditional Samoan food, seeing cultural performances and speaking the language.

Students of Weymouth Primary School in Manurewa entered into their celebrations with a school assembly that featured community guest speakers, singing and traditional dancing.

This year's theme is 'Tautua nei mo sou manuia a taeao' which means 'Serve now for a better tomorrow'.

The school's principal Saane Faaofo-Oldehaver said while her parents were trying to assimilate into New Zealand culture, she lost the language.

"My parents came to New Zealand when they were 15, 16, and they didn't go back to Samoa for about 40 years. And they had all seven of us here and we pretty much went through with no language.

"Culture and identity were there, but we didn't have the language."

About 40 percent of the school's local community are Pasifika, with 20 percent being Samoan.

Ms Faaofo-Oldehaver said it was important for the school to support the children in celebrating Pacific culture and language.

"They were just over the moon. They love it. And then the ones that are really proud of their cultures have come in their traditional costumes today," she said.

Weymouth Primary School students

Weymouth Primary School students

Photo: RNZI / Indira Moala

Student ambassador Aiaraisa Tautalagia said her parents only spoke to her in Samoan in special circumstances.

"Only when I get growlings because my cousins are always there and they don't understand proper Samoan so they growl me in Samoan," she said.

Samoan is the third most spoken language in New Zealand, with 144,000 people at the last Census identifying as Samoan.

It was also the second most spoken language in Auckland.

Pastor Chris Sola, who is Samoan Maori, said this week's celebration of the language was vital for its survival in New Zealand.

"I think it's a starting point. I think schools are a good context for that. I think Churches play a huge role in that as well." said Mr Sola.

"But certainly having a week like this is certainly going to put it out there for our communities and our families."

Other schools and community groups nationwide will be holding dance workshops, sporting events, theatre productions and more to celebrate Samoan Language week.

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