With Vagahau Niue on the world’s list of endangered languages once again, the government says it’s concerned about preserving it for the next generations of Niueans.
This week is Niue Language Week, or Faahi Tapu he Vagahau Niue, dedicated to a language listed by Unesco as “definitely endangered”.
Minister for Pacific Peoples Aupito William Sio joined members and leaders of the Niuean Community to celebrate the beginning of the week on Sunday at south Auckland’s Favona School, home to the country’s only Vagahau Niue bilingual class.
This year’s language week theme is all about sustainability: “Fakatūleva e Vagahau Niue mo e Tau Aga Fakamotu ma e Tau Atuhau,” or Sustain Niue Language and Culture for Future Generations.
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“It is vital we preserve, sustain and maintain Vagahau Niue and its culture for many generations to come,” Sio said in a statement.
According to the 2018 Census, there are 30,867 Niueans living in Aotearoa New Zealand, and just 1620 in Niue.
Only 12% of those residing in Aotearoa speak Vagahau Niue, down by 11% since 2006. When it comes to the youngest Niueans the situation is even more dire – just 7% of under 15s speak their mother tongue.
The community has told the government it wants more support at the education curriculum level to make sure the language is safe among the young.
“As a realm nation of Aotearoa, the New Zealand Government is committed to ensuring the wellbeing needs of the large Niue population residing in New Zealand are met,” Sio said.
“That’s why this Government invested $20m from Budget 2021 to support Pacific bilingual units, that include Niue as an NCEA subject. This is to develop a Pacific bilingual language education policy within the context of the Action Plan for Pacific Education.
“I want to assure our Pacific communities that we hear you. We hear the passion and commitment you have for our languages.
“We hear the call for better pathways in our education system that draw on our Pacific languages as keys to success. That’s why this Government launched the first ever Pacific Language Strategy to ensure Vagahau Niue thrives and flourishes.”
The Pacific Language Strategy 2022-2032 was launched on September 23, 2022.
Alongside Vagahau Niue, Gagana Tokelau and Te Reo Māori Kūki ‘Āirani are identified as needing “urgent revitalisation”.
During consultation on the strategy, the community said it would like to see legislation giving official language status to Vagahau Niue, as a language of a realm country.
Try these phrases out this week in Vagahau Niue:
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