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Fijian Language Week: Celebrating culture, language and national pride

Grace Tinetali-Fiavaai

A huge week of celebrations for Fijians

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Fijians have a lot to celebrate this week - with the national rugby team advancing through to the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals and a special week dedicated to preserving language and culture.

Fijians in New Zealand have celebrated their culture and language during Fijian Language Week - Macawa ni Vosa Vakaviti - for 10 years.

This morning there were more celebrations after the Flying Fijians qualified to the quarter-finals stage at the RWC, in France, despite a 24-23 loss to Portugal. Fiji is set to take on England in the early hours of Monday morning (NZT).

This year’s language celebrations officially kicked off over the weekend and included several church services around the country, including one at First Light Church, in Frankton, Hamilton.

Minister for Pacific Peoples Barbara Edmonds said: “As a diaspora population, our Pacific languages, culture and identity are more important than ever before.”

Such Pacific language weeks would see resources created to support long-term language planning, she said.

This year’s Fijian Language Week theme is: Me vakabulabulataki, vakamareqeti, ka vakaqqacotaki na vosa vakaviti. Translated, it means: Nurture, preserve and maintain the Fijian language.

According to the 2018 Census, approximately 21,000 Fijians live in New Zealand. Up to 11 per cent of those people are speakers of their mother tongue.

Tomorrow also marks 53 years since the island nation became independent in 1970.

Various activities and events will be held to commemorate Fijian Language Week around Aotearoa.

They include learning and preparing authentic Fijian cuisine, a Fijian cultural night, the study of Fijian songs and dances and the scraping of coconuts and tapa cloth.

Uniting a community by nurturing language

The 2023 Pacific Language Week sustainability theme matches the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s Decade of Indigenous Languages and Pacific Languages Strategy.

Each year, an increasing number of Fijian groups based in regional communities become involved, including Fijian workers here under the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme.

“We know this is particularly important after the impact extreme weather events have had on the well-being of our Pacific people in affected areas,” Edmonds said.

“Our role as a community is to be united in nurturing our language through creating environments where Vosa Vakaviti is used by more people and in more spaces.”

The official languages of Fiji are Fijian, Fiji-Hindi and English.

As a member of the Malayo-Polynesian language family, Fijian and te reo Māori share similarities, including vowel pronunciation.

Fijian Language Week runs until Saturday, October 14 (Election day).

For more information on events happening around your area, visit: Ministry for Pacific Peoples

Give it a go

Hello: Bula (Bull-uh)

Goodbye: Moce (more-theh)

Thank you: Vinaka (Vee-nah-kah)

Go, Fiji, go! Toso, Viti, toso! (tore-saw-Vee-tee-tore-saw!)

Hero image: Fijians are celebrating language, culture and national pride this week. File Photo /Stuart Munro

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