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Climate change will have a profound impact on Pacific languages

Climate change will have a profound impact on Pacific languages

  • 29 Sep 2019
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When the Minister for Pacific Peoples Hon Aupito William Sio was in Tuvalu recently for the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), the leaders reaffirmed climate change as the single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and wellbeing of the peoples of the Pacific. 

However, it is the youth of the Pacific region who remind everyone one of the issues often overlooked is the effect this crisis could have on Pacific languages, he says. 

Pacific youth constantly remind us languages and cultures are an integral part of our identities and personal wellbeing; and people should do all they can to ensure it is safeguarded and passed onto future generations.  

In Tuvalu, youths' passionate voices, while standing on land that is literally being swallowed up by the sea, moved the Minister profoundly with a sense of urgency to increase our global solidarity for urgent and immediate action with our common concerns, he says. 

“That’s why one of my priorities as Minister is to make sure young Pacific people who call Aotearoa their home grow up being able to thrive and be confident in the future of their own Tuvaluan language." 

Tuvalu Language Week - Vaiaso o te ‘Gana Tuvalu 2019 was officially launched on September 28 at West Auckland's Church Unlimited, providing people with an opportunity to reflect on how the words used help to foster an understanding of the world they live in and inspire them to take action to build a prosperous future.

Minister Sio says languages are powerful - they not only provide us with the means to describe issues with great accuracy, they allow us to attach metaphorical meaning to these issues.

"Words can evoke emotional responses in people much more than graphs or reports can. 

“People in New Zealand are demonstrating the protection and safeguarding of the right of Pacific peoples to self-determine the future of their languages and cultures is part and parcel of our climate change action which also aligns with the voices of the Pacific youth in Aotearoa." 

New Zealand is home to a young, proud and talented population of Tuvalu people - over half are under the age of 20 years. 

"That is why the decision to allocate more than $20 million over the next four years for a dedicated Pacific Languages Unit to ensure Aotearoa New Zealand is home to thriving Pacific languages is such a crucial part of our wellbeing agenda." 

Tuvalu Language Week is the fourth of seven Pacific language weeks that will take place in 2019 and it will run from September 29 until October 5, and this year's theme is: Lakei mo te manuia ataeao, or in English, striving for a prosperous future.

Visit HERE for more information and resources for Tuvalu Language Week.