Tag Archives: Tongan Language Week

What my Tongan language means to me?

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.

Tongan Language Week, 3-9 September

170901 Halaevalu Tatu
Halaevalu Tatu far right

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>

Tongan Language Week – The Joy in Revisiting my Tongan Roots

As Tongan Language Week draws to a close, we hear from UC Early Childhood Education student Piliniuote Fifita.

Mālō e lelei!

Born and raised in Tonga has secured my pride in the heart of Tongan language, music, dance, traditional ceremonies and being part of a large group such as family, church and the community (village).

NoteCelebrating the Tongan Language week is an opportunity that allows me to revisit my Tongan roots: ancestors, family, language, culture and art. It also allows me to reflect on the journey I had and how I have kept myself connected to my Tongan roots.

Being a student at the University of Canterbury, an education provider that acknowledges the significance of multiculturalism and the fact that it has a Pacific Development Team that actively supports and keeps me in the loop, has established a greater sense of belonging and confidence in my journey as a student.

It is a great honour to be part of the Tongan Language week’s celebration. Drawing upon ‘revisiting my Tongan roots’, I have found my delightment giving birth to “Revival Tongan values”. This one week celebration is a chance to revitalise and enrich my cultural competencies in a diverse context.

This year’s theme is ‘Fakakoloa ‘a Aotearoa ‘aki ‘a e Loto’i Tonga’ — Enriching Aotearoa with the Tongan Spirit. To mark the importance of this year’s theme, I am going to wrap up the joy of my Tongan pride in celebrating the Tongan Language week, in a short composed Tongan art – Maau (Poem).

Tongan Language Week

You came flashing

As compatibly blazing

Cultural gravity, lifted me within

I blinked and winked to begin

Colour-coding my skin


Like passwords

You came in native words

Uike Lea Fakatonga! Mālō!

Make me a thousand songs

Let’s dance in woven-sarongs!