Oct. 3 marked the beginning of Fijian Language Week in New Zealand, the seventh of this year’s nine Pacific Language Weeks being celebrated throughout the country. The theme to this year’s Pacific Language Weeks is the importance of language as a contributing factor to an individual or culture’s overall wellbeing.
“Measures of wellbeing include life satisfaction, finances, health, housing, human rights, and relationships, and for our Pacific communities, cultural identity and knowledge of language, values and beliefs is a major contributor to wellbeing,” said Aupito William Sio, the country’s Minister for Pacific Peoples, according to a report from Radio New Zealand (RNZ).
New Zealand’s Ministry for Pacific Peoples kicked off this year’s series of Pacific Language Weeks on May 9 with Rotuman Language Week. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Fijian Language Week is currently being celebrated online, as were the two prior, which honored Tonga and Tuvalu. The ministry has been holding a series of Pacific Language Weeks since 2010 in an effort to raise awareness for the languages and promote a sense of diversity throughout the country.
“Although officially termed “Language Weeks”, many have extended activities throughout the year with language funding support provided by MPP to enable year-long language learning initiatives, which are led by our Pacific communities all over the country,” reads a blog post published by the ministry earlier this year.
Fijian is spoken by a little bit more than 300,000 people and is one of three official languages of Fiji, alongside English and Fiji Hindi. The language’s status within the country has been widely contested, with many believing that the country should do more to promote the language in the country’s education and school system. Although more than half the nation speaks Fijian, the language is not compulsory in schools and also did not hold official status until 1997 (up until then, English was the only official language of the country).
“Let’s celebrate with our Fijian community and embrace this wonderful language and culture woven into the fabric of Aotearoa (the Maori-language name for New Zealand),” Minister Sio said, according to RNZ.