This week marked annual celebrations of Samoan Language Week or – Vaiaso o le Gagana Samoa, which was largely observed in the Polynesian Islands, New Zealand, Australia and Hawai’i.
The annual event is a celebration of the Samoan language and culture, and an opportunity to bring awareness to threatened or endangered Indigenous languages.
According to The Ministry for Pacific Peoples, the theme for this year’s Samoan Language Week was ‘Mitamita i lau gagana, maua’a lou fa’asinomaga’ , which means ‘be proud of your language and grounded in your identity’.
A statement from the Ministry said: “This year’s theme focuses on the importance of the Samoan language and identity. It impresses on us the need not only to understand the Samoan language, but to also use it as much as possible. When you are proud of your language and can speak it, you will also be more grounded in your identity as a Samoan.”
In New Zealand, the Samoan people represent 47.9% of Pacific Islanders in the country, and Gagana Samoa is the third most spoken language after English and Te Reo Māori.
This year, the New Zealand government has invested $13.3 million from the annual budget to implement the Pacific Languages Strategy, to ensure communities have more opportunities to hear, speak – and most critically to learn Pacific languages.
During the week, Samoan communities held events celebrating music, dancing, language learning and Pacific radio services both in person and online. All uses of Samoan are encouraged, from newer phrases used by younger generations to more traditional forms of the language by older generations.
The Ministry for Pacific Peoples explains “The Samoan language has many components. There is simple Samoan, and there is more complex Samoan. There is everyday language and then there is respectful language. There is language specific to young people, and then language that pertains to chiefs and orators. The Samoan language has depth.
This year’s theme for Samoa Language Week is encouraging all use of the Samoan language, from the language most fitting for young people, to the Samoan language used with adults and older Samoans. Whatever stage you are at on your language journey, and how well you can speak and understand Samoan, it is important to continue to use it daily so that the Samoan language thrives. Only there will you be proud of your language, and only then will your identity as a Samoan be grounded in your mind, body and soul.”