Growing up as a Tongan in New Zealand, it was difficult trying to learn both cultures at the same time. What I still struggle with to this day is trying to learn the Tongan language, because I only hear it been spoken at home, church, or Tongan functions. Whereas, I hear the English language spoken everywhere. I may not be as fluent in Tongan, but I love being Tongan, and I am not embarrassed to embrace my culture with pride and dignity, wherever I go.
Having the opportunity to go back home earlier this year, after 17 years, made me realise how different life is in Tonga and how thankful I am for everything I have here in Christchurch. Being surrounded by Tongan people was an amazing atmosphere to be in because I was in a country full of freedom, I didn’t feel different, and I loved hearing everyone speak Tongan. But, most importantly, I was able to learn more about my Tongan culture, heritage, and the language.
I am thankful for the different opportunities and services the UC Pacific Development Team provide for the Pasifika students because it shows how considerate and caring they are towards Pacific people. We, Pacific Islanders are viewed differently in this multi-cultural country, and having Pacific language weeks acknowledges the different Pacific Island languages and how significant our Pacific culture is in New Zealand.
As a proud Tongan who was born and raised in Christchurch, New Zealand, Tongan language week allows me to embrace and acknowledge my identity, culture, and language in this multi-cultural society. MATE MA’A TONGA!
Written by Halaevalu Tatu
See what the Pacific Development Team get up to during Tongan language week on Facebook>