What Aotearoa is teaching Alaskans about language

10:48 am on 7 January 2016

The southern Alaskan village of Igiugig has come to New Zealand in an attempt to revitalise its own native language.

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Photo: RNZ

Last year, the small town received a grant to embark on a three-year journey to boost the number of Yup'ik speakers.

More than 41 of about 70 residents in the town have come to New Zealand to learn about the success of Te Reo Maori.

That's left just 28 residents back home.

Igiugig president and project director Alex Salmon told Summer Report that worldwide there were only 24 people, all over the age of 65, left speaking the native language.

Miss Salmon said her village only had four fluent speakers remaining, who were all 70 and over.

She said the village had been given a grant by the US government to help keep the language alive.

It allowed for the the four remaining elders to join with five adult apprentices, to help them become fluent.

The apprentices will hold three-hour language immersion classes with children aged seven and under, to help grow new speakers.

Miss Salmon said the programme began in August, with part of the three-year plan being to visit Aotearoa and learn from Maori.

"We were inspired with how Te Reo started in a garage with a sign that said, you know 'we will speak Maori here'.

"It didn't begin with federal funding, or funding from anyone, it began from the heart and community driven and that's the same kind of spirit that we're trying to bring back to our region."

Miss Salmon said the group had learned a lot from visiting two New Zealand schools, where Te Reo Maori was used regularly.