12 Mar 2014

Keen interest in Pacific speech contests

9:01 am on 12 March 2014

Organisers of Auckland's Polyfest say the increase in the number of students taking part this year should allay fears that some Pacific languages are dying.

The 39th annual Maori and Pacific secondary schools cultural festival starts on Wednesday morning. About 10,000 performers from 62 schools are taking part over four days.

Festival director Theresa Howard says entries are particularly strong for the speech contests in Samoan, Tongan and Cook Islands Maori - and there are so many entrants in the Niuean speech competition, she says, that the preliminary rounds are being held elsewhere and only the top 12 speakers will perform at the festival.

Ms Howard says it's a good sign for the health of Pacific languages. "The youth are speaking the language to each other," she says. "It is alive - we just need to maintain it more."