Mālō e lelei! Celebrate Tongan Language Week: 3–9 September

Mālō e lelei! Tonga Language Week — Uike Kātoanga’i ‘o e Lea Faka-Tonga — takes place this year from Sunday 3 September to Saturday 9 September, with the aim of introducing New Zealanders to Tongan culture.

Tonga Language Week / Uike Kātoanga’i ‘o e lea faka-Tonga provides an opportunity to celebrate Tongan culture through music, song, dance, food, crafts and language. It also supports the curriculum principles of cultural diversity and inclusion, allowing students to:
  • demonstrate the vision of connection to a global community
  • explore the values of diversity, community, and respect
  • achieve learning outcomes described in the learning languages area
  • make use of key competencies, especially using language, symbols, and texts, and relating to others.
— The Human Rights Commission of New Zealand

2017 Tongan Language week poster Tongan Language Week 2017 — Fakakoloa Aotearoa ‘Aki ‘Ae Nofo 'A Kainga’ — Enriching Aotearoa with Tongan Family Values. Ministry for Pacific Peoples. CC BY 4.0.

Enriching Aotearoa with Tongan culture

According to the 2013 census, there are over 60,000 people of Tongan decent living in New Zealand. They include famous All Blacks, creative artists, hip-hop and opera singers. As the 3rd largest Pacific ethnic group in New Zealand, the Tongan community continues to play a significant role in New Zealand society. Tongan Language week provides an opportunity to celebrate the language, art and culture of the Tongan Islands.

The theme for Tongan Language Week 2017 is Fakakoloa a Aotearoa aki ‘ae nofo ‘a kainga — enriching Aotearoa with our family values.

The Ministry for Pacific Peoples provides a range of supporting materials and resources to help celebrate Tongan Language Week, including a calendar of national events, Tongan salutations, and a range of great learning resources.

The Human Rights Commission of New Zealand has also developed a comprehensive guide to celebrating Tongan language week, including a number of resources you can use to celebrate Tongan language and culture in the classroom.

Celebrate Tongan culture and language in your school

The Human Rights Commission suggests you start exploring Tongan language week in your school by asking the questions:

  • Why is it important for all New Zealanders to celebrate and learn lea faka-Tonga?
  • What benefits will this bring to New Zealanders of Tongan descent?

These are great starting points for further discussion and learning. Some other ideas for prompting learning during Tongan Language Week in your school are:

  • Set up a display of all the books and resources you currently have about Tonga.
  • Display some of the resources from the Ministry for Pacific Peoples or Human Rights Commission in your library or classroom — or use them as interesting starters for writing poetry or prose, or creating posters.
  • Explore the NZ Pacific Picture Book Collection collection to find out about great picture books that are supported with curriculum activities.
  • Look for local events (pdf, 560KB), including at public libraries, that your students can get involved in. Or host an event yourself!
  • Find a Tongan speaker to come and read to your students, so they can hear and enjoy what the language sounds like.

A wealth of digital resources to support Tongan language week

There are many digital resources that you can use in your school throughout Tongan Language Week and beyond. Here are some you might find useful:

Resources from Services to Schools and the National Library

  • Tonga Topic Explorer set  — from dance moves for the lakalaka and tapa cloth making to the Tongan haka, this set has multimedia resources that feature Tonga’s extraordinary culture and its inextricable links with New Zealand.
  • DigitalNZ content about Tonga — search for ‘Tonga’ and you (or your students) can create your own sets of photos, articles, audio etc. These could be used for a variety of teaching and learning activities — from looking at the history of Tonga to getting students to create digital stories about aspects of Tongan language or culture.

Other digital resources

Keep up the good work in your school and library

Keep on building an inclusive collection — including books and other resources about Samoa or in Tongan.

Tonga Language Week — Uike Kātoanga’i ‘o e lea faka-Tonga — is a great way to celebrate Tonga in Aotearoa New Zealand and the wider Tongan culture and heritage, and help young people reflect on culture, identity and society.

From fun activities during the week to increasing access to multicultural books and resources in your library long term, think about how you can contribute to keeping Pacific island cultures alive and thriving!

Fai’aki e ‘ilo ‘oua ‘e fai’aki e fanongo — do it by knowing, not by hearing.

By Nicole Gaston

Nicole is an Online Content Services Developer for Services to Schools.

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