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Keeping language alive in the family

Keeping language alive in the family

  • 11 Mar 2019
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Rotuman families are being encouraged to sign up for Rotuman language classes, starting in March. 

The New Zealand Rotuman Fellowship (NZRF) Incorporated is rolling out a New Zealand Community Rotuman Language Pilot as part of its national mandate, which will be led by an affiliated branch in Auckland, Mairani Rotuman Group Auckland. 

Chair of Mairani Rotuman Group Auckland Maria Fuata says the group is focussing on learning as a family unit. 

“We believe the best way to learn the Rotuman language is speaking it in your own homes as a family,” Maria says. 

Families who sign up will receive a resource pack including charts and maps that they can take away and learn at home, then provide feedback and reaffirm their learning at the community gatherings every Saturday. 

“Here elders and teachers will provide more guidance with additional resources handed out as the programme is delivered,” Maria adds.   

“Learning, using the core resources, will complement hanuju or traditional Rotuman folklore and stories of growing up on the island of Rotuma that will be imparted through storytelling by our elders - this will be a highlight of the programme.” 

The Rotuman language will also be taught through traditional Rotuman song and dance called tautoga, which the entire community will be involved in either as dancers, singers or costume makers, and led by traditional Rotuman composers and choreographers or Purotu. 

“This, we hope, will be a drawcard for our youth especially,” Maria says. 

The programme also includes videos which will be uploaded onto NZ Rotuman Fellowship Incorporated Facebook page to use as a guide for pronunciation. 

Being able to speak in your own language is a key part of learning your culture, and it is the responsibility of individuals who know the language to teach it and help keep the Rotuman culture and heritage alive, Maria says. 

“The Rotuman language has been identified as an endangered language in the UNESCO list of endangered languages. 

“With 2019 being the Year of the Indigenous Language, this heightens the urgency in ensuring our Rotuman language is preserved and taught to our younger generations to ensure the language is not lost.” 

The Pilot will start in Auckland on March 9, at Manurewa’s Methodist Church, corner of Great South Road and Alfriston Road, with plans to roll out the language pilot in Hamilton and Wellington later in the month. 

Auckland-based students can sign up at the orientation evening on March 9 from 5pm; or by joining Mairani Rotuman Group Auckland Facebook and NZ Rotuman Fellowship Incorporated Facebook to receive announcements. 

Hamilton/Waikato and Wellington families will be invited to sign up once the venues and details are confirmed with the respective Rotuman elders and leaders in those areas.

The NZRF and Rotuman Youth of New Zealand committees are staging a community meeting for Rotumans in the Waikato area on March 16 at 1pm in central Hamilton; and in May, NZRF will host a weekend camp in Auckland for Rotumans from all over New Zealand which coincides with Rotuman Language Week 2019 (May 12-19). 

NZ Rotuman Fellowship Incorporated partnered with IPA Learning Centre (based in Suva, Fiji) to run the classes as well as receiving support from Foundation North for the Auckland region delivery. 

One of the Ministry for Pacific Peoples (MPP) priority areas to support is language identity and retention, to help create a flourishing Pacific community in Aotearoa.

Although it is not one of the official MPP Pacific Language Weeks, we support the Rotuman Language Week and the Rotumans’ desire to pass on their language and culture to future generations.