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Celebrations for Tongan Language Week kicks off

Tongan Language Week launch in Auckland. Photo/ PRN.

Aotearoa is celebrating the little Kingdom this week with Tongan Language Week.

The theme for this year is Fakakoloa Aotearoa 'Aki 'Ae Nofo 'A Kainga - Enriching Aotearoa With Our Family Values.

The Tongan Language Committee launched the Tongan Language Year in March to encourage the use of the language all year round, rather than one week.

Minister for Pacific Peoples Alfred Ngaro is commending the Tongan community for leading the way.

"Our Tongan community have taken the initiative," he says. "They're saying to the nation and other Pacific communities, 'We're serious about this and we're going to make this a commitment over a whole year'."

Minister for Pacific Peoples Alfred Ngaro at the Tongan Language Week launch in Auckland. Photo/ PRN.

The National Party is promising an investment of $160 million over the next four years to provide schools with expert language teachers and specialists.

Alfred Ngaro will be pushing for Pacific languages to be a part of that package, should National be elected for a fourth term.

"There'll be an opportunity for all primary school kids to be able to learn a second language," he says. "We know that a number of our Pacific languages will be one of those languages which I think is really important."

More than half of the Tongan population in New Zealand are able to hold a conversation in their mother tongue.

The 2013 census counted 60,336 Tongans in Aotearoa and 31,839 being able to speak the language.

Alfred Ngaro wants to make sure the language is being passed on to the next generation.\

"You may have the language at church and at home but now it's around the fact you then have to speak English when you're in the workforce so there's always going to be that challenge," he says. "Moving in to the future, how do we equip our young people to still retain the language and the culture?"

Tongans are the third largest Pacific community in Aotearoa, trailing behind Samoans and Cook Islanders.

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