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Language defines Tautai o le Gagana recipient

Language defines Tautai o le Gagana recipient

  • 14 Jun 2021
Melegalenuu Ah Sam

Melegalenuu Ah Sam recieved an award at the inaugural Tautai o le Gagana Language Champion Honours.

Mangere College Deputy Principal Melegalenuu Ah Sam (pictured) promotes Gagana Samoa in all she does. 

At school, the recent recipient of an inaugural Tautai o le Gagana Language Champion Honours Awards says she encourages students to speak Samoan in and out of the classroom.  

“I encourage teachers to speak a few words in Samoan each week not just Samoa Language Week, and our school library has lots of books written in Samoan for students to read and find out about Samoa,” Melegalenuu says. 

The Language Champion Honours is part of the Ministry for Pacific Peoples (MPP) new initiative it is implementing this year for the Pacific Language Weeks series.

These prestigious awards recognise the many years people have invested into their language and culture, and into the vibrant Samoan community of Aotearoa. 

Born and raised in Samoa, Melegalenuu moved to Christchurch when she was awarded a New Zealand Scholarship. 

She attended the University of Canterbury before moving onto Teacher’s College.  

“After that, I went back to Samoa to serve my bond, and taught Commerce subjects at Samoa College and then Church College of Western Samoa.  

“I got married and returned to New Zealand with my husband and my daughter, and began teaching at Nga Tapuwae College, Auckland for a very short time, then to Otahuhu College, then to Mangere College where I am still teaching now.” 

Speaking Samoan has always been spoken in Melegalenuu’s household, without question. 

“When I was growing up in Samoa, I attended Samoa College where students were encouraged to speak English instead of Samoan. 

“There were consequences if you spoke Samoan, but it did not deter me from speaking Samoan around the school.” 

When she moved to New Zealand, Melegalenuu promised she would teach her children Gagana Samoa so they could be proud of her identity.  

“In our home, the only language spoken is Samoan - my husband and I are  firm in our belief we are our daughters’ first teachers so we must teach and encourage our daughters to speak Samoan.  

“We have made it a rule in our home there was to be no English language spoken except Samoan - I wanted to endorse the belief that if you are fluent in your first language then you can pick up another language easily.” 

Melegalenuu and her husband have been blessed with their first grandchild this year, and the family will continue the tradition of speaking Samoan to the new addition. 

Driving Melegalenuu to nurture and sustain Gagana Samoa is the sense of identity, faasinomaga and belonging she has from speaking it. 

“This faasinomaga is in my heart, mind and my soul.   

“My language connects me to my land, which lends substance to the Samoan saying, ‘o le tama o le ele’ele’, which means ‘man of the soil’.  

“My language allows me to have a close relationship with my God, and it defines my ‘va fealoaloa’i (relationships) and tua’oi (boundaries) between myself and others.” 

Language defines who Melegalenuu is, what she does, and what she believes in, she adds.   

The recent award she won reflects how Gagana Samoa has progressed from its humble beginnings to where it is now, Melegalenuu explains.  

“It is the work of so many people that worked so hard for Gagana Samoa to be recognised as an academic subject at secondary and tertiary level. 

“It is also an award for my beloved parents, Toalepaialii Toeolesulusulu Posesione and Osooso Ieremia Salesa, who instilled in my growing up the importance of faasinomaga.” 

She also thanks her two daughters Joanne-Lufi and Josephina Lomialagi, and her husband Ulugia Tapuala Lote Ah Sam, for his tofa faa-le-Atua (God’s wisdom) always. 

“I will continue to speak, sing, dance and praise my Gagana Samoa as long as I live.” 

Fa’atili Iosua Esera, Sala Pafitimai Dr Faasaulala Tagoilelagi-Leota, and Youth category winners Ben Lui and Sesilia Faletoi also received Language Champion Honours at the conclusion of Samoa Language Week 2021. 

Learn more about the Pacific Language Weeks