5 Sep 2017

'Today would be a day for fakapotopoto'

3:46 pm on 5 September 2017

Two Tongan children have landed in Auckland to help build the momentum of this year's Tonga Language Week.

Alfred Ngaro with Charlize Vete and Christopher Latu.

Minister for Pacific Peoples Alfred Ngaro with Charlize Vete and Christopher Latu. Photo: RNZ / Laura Tupou

This year's theme is 'Fakakoloa Aotearoa 'Aki 'Ae Nofo 'A Kainga' or 'Enriching Aotearoa with our Family Values'.

About 200 people gathered for the Ministry for Pacific Peoples' Auckland launch of Tonga Language Week during the weekend.

And two 8-year-olds, Charlize Vete and Christopher Latu, have travelled from Tonga to spread a healthy message.

"[Eat] five portions of fruit and vegetables everyday," the pair said, which of course they practise as well as preach. But also admit they eat poaka - or pork - regularly with it being a usual suspect at any Tongan feast.

Charlize and Christopher are with Mai e Nima - Tonga's equivalent to '5+ a day'. They'll be visiting schools and markets to teach other children about healthy eating.

Minister for Pacific Peoples Alfred Ngaro backed the campaign for not only spreading the language but for also seeking to improve Tongan people's health.

"Tongans make up one of the 10 population groups where there's a concern around obesity. So it's around encouraging them to not only be able to eat healthy but also they can plant, and they can harvest that."

Minister for Pacific Peoples, Alfred Ngaro.

Minister for Pacific Peoples, Alfred Ngaro. Photo: RNZ / Laura Tupou

Charlize and Christopher said they grew tomatoes - their favourite - at school.

Tongans are the third largest Pacific population in the country with 60,333 people, but although the number of Tongans has grown since 2001, their use of the Tongan language has dropped from 57 percent to 53 percent.

Tongan language advocate Linita Manu'atu said there should be a year-long campaign for every Pacific language.

"There we might learn how to normalise our ways of thinking and speaking. The way that we value our values, our beliefs, our spiritual experiences - you've got to have the whole year."

Linita Manu'atu.

Tongan language advocate, Linita Manu'atu. Photo: RNZ / Laura Tupou

Learning the language of a different land was laced with politics, Dr Manu'atu said.

For example, the fact that the education system was Palagi-centric made things difficult, she said.

Dr Manu'atu's favourite Tongan term is 'fakapotopoto' meaning the wisdom of knowing how to live well.

"Today would be a day for fakapotopoto Tongan people to understand themselves through their language, Tongan, and their cultural practices," Dr Mau'atu' said.

The Minister for Pacific Peoples' favourite Tongan word was 'malo au'pito' which means 'thank you'.

"But it's not just a small thank you, it's a big thank you - thank you for all the things that you've been able to do for me," Mr Ngaro said.

Events are being held around the country until Saturday 9 September.

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