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Pacific languages in demand by growing population

Pacific languages in demand by growing population

  • 10 Jun 2024
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(Picture caption: Learning a Pacific language helps to connect us to one another, and our identities. Photo credit: Havaka Images.)

If you have ever contemplated taking a Pacific language, now is your chance.

Enrolments for the current and upcoming terms are underway at the Centre for Pacific Languages (CPL), which offers free weekly online classes in Sāmoan, Tongan, Fijian, Rotuman, Cook Islands Māori, Tokelauan, Niue, Tuvaluan, and Kiribati languages.  

The organisation has been serving Pacific communities in Aotearoa New Zealand for over 40 years, starting out in 1978 under the Pacific Island Education Resource Centre (PIERC Education) banner.

In 2014, PIERC rebranded to Pasifika Education Centre (PEC), which then became CPL in 2022.

Chief Executive Officer of CPL Fesaitu Solomone says her team supports communities on their journeys to revitalise, strengthen and maintain their heritage languages, a goal which CPL shares with the Ministry for Pacific Peoples.

“As we migrate, we take our culture, our identity, and language with us – it is who we are as a people,” Fesaitu says.

“We contribute to the wider world through our skills, knowledge, and education because we are confident in ourselves, our language and identity.  

“Our language enhances the makeup and diversity of nations, and our language connects us with one other.”

She adds Pacific languages are globally recognised, used in many spaces, domains and across institutions.

“Our culture is depicted alongside our language as the core foundation of who we are as a growing population.”

The Pacific population in New Zealand is indeed growing.

Preliminary 2023 Census data shows 442,632 people identified with at least one Pacific ethnic group, with Pacific peoples making up nine percent of the total counted population.

The number of Pacific peoples counted in Census 2023 increased by 16 percent from the number counted in 2018.

Fesaitu says CPL as a champion of our Pacific languages, aims to support the growth of speakers both in Aotearoa New Zealand, and potentially around the world.

“We are seeing more and more of our diaspora population looking to Aotearoa as the example for language revitalisation, and language maintenance.

“Our role is to navigate, promote and also protect the cultural knowledge that our knowledge holders bring to the Centre.”

The CPL classes are for New Zealand-based residents, and citizens who want to learn a Pacific language, and help keep Pacific languages thriving.

They are intended for all learners at different levels of their language journey.

Currently, CPL is also looking for interested tutors and translators who are interested in joining a pool at CPL.

“Since Covid-19, there is an increased demand in translation work across many industries across New Zealand, and globally.

“Please reach out to the team if you're interested in learning a Pacific language, cultural competency training and translation work,” Fesaitu says.

Visit the Centre for Pacific Languages website for more information.