Koe ‘Otua mo Tonga Ko Hoku Tofi’a.
One of the few Tongan phrases I know but the one that speaks to me the most.
Embedded in our deep love for God and Tonga is our language. Our language tells our stories from the sea-farers that came before us, and will be the same language for future generations.
Tongan language is a way for those who are born outside of Tonga to stay connected to our roots. It is our connection to our traditions, culture, and ways of life. Simple words like faka’apa’apa and talangofua hold deep meanings and at times there are no words in the English dictionary that can be used to fully translate such words.
What does Tongan language mean to me?
When I hear the hymns being sung in church, or even a simple conversation, I feel as though I am somewhat proud to be Tongan. Before I moved to Dunedin for University, I can safely say that I was rarely exposed to the Tongan language. I went to church but I did not understand, I sung the hymns but did not understand, I would hear my mother and her relatives laughing over a cup of tea but I did not understand. This never really bothered me until I moved.
For the first time in life I found myself with a group of Tongan friends, who not only spoke in Tongan but actually knew the culture and the traditions. At this point, I learnt that our language carries our culture, traditions and ways of life. Our language is the essence of who we are. When I hear another person speaking Tongan I light up, because there is someone else who I can identify with. Language bring us together, it gives us the opportunity to celebrate our identity, and for that I will be eternally grateful.
By creating safe and comfortable spaces where our Tongan students feel free to speak their language, laugh in their language and interact with each other is important. Within the Canterbury University Tongan Students Association we aim to promote this. Being able to create these kind of spaces creates a home away from home for our Tongan students from all over New Zealand as well as the world.