Samoan Language Week has been a great achievement this year with thousands of people celebrating gagana Samoa here in New Zealand and around the world.
“With events taking place throughout New Zealand and stretching across the Tasman for the first time – at early childhood centres, schools, universities, sports clubs, churches, government departments and even parliament – the week has been a comprehensive success,” says NZ National Commission for UNESCO chair, Bryan Gould.
“Gagana Samoa has been promoted widely on the internet with thousands joining Samoan Language Week’s Facebook page. Samoan celebrities and MPs added their voices of support with Youtube messages and sporting heroes also came to the fore with the announcement early this week that the ARL, NRL and NZ Rugby League had joined as official partners.”
“Incredibly we have been swamped with messages of support from Samoan people living all over the planet – Alaska, Kazakhstan, Japan, Sweden, Sudan and Brazil – many have celebrated the week in their own communities. This shows the power of the internet and the will of a people to celebrate their heritage – no matter where they may be living.”
This year UNESCO worked alongside the Human Rights Commission and FAGASA (Fa’alāpotopotoga mo le A’oa’oina o le Gagana Sāmoa i Aotearoa) to help organise the week. A Samoan language phrasebook was launched in conjunction with the Ministry of Education – this is now available, free for people to download and use immediately. Mr Gould says UNESCO is committed to the preservation of languages as a vital component of linguistic and cultural diversity, multilingualism and quality education for all.
“The diversity of the world’s cultures is our wealth and our future. We need to increase our investment in cultural diversity and dialogue for development.”
“Language is an intangible treasure that we must all work to protect and celebrate.”
Five “Samoan Language Champions” are being honoured at the weekend – people who have made an outstanding contribution to the preservation and promotion of gagana Samoa in New Zealand.
“It is because of these kinds of leaders that languages and culture will survive and flourish into the future,” says Mr Gould.
“On behalf of UNESCO, I would like to pay tribute to their passion and commitment over the past forty years. Malo lava le soifua.”
Another exciting initiative announced this week is the news that the Samoan Language Teachers Association (FAGASA) and the Maori Language Commission have joined forces to support gagana Samoa and te reo Maori.
“The support from Maori for Samoan Language Week has been fantastic: we now look forward to celebrating Maori Language Week from the 26th July to the 1st August with the support of the Samoan community,” says Mr Gould.