Linguistic imperialism of English

Dr Melenaite Taumoefolau, Senior Lecturer in Pacific Studies at the University of Auckland.

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Dr Melenaite Taumoefolau

This week from 1-7 June, New Zealand celebrates Gagana Samoa, the language of Samoa, partly to mark its progress and persistence in Aotearoa, partly to counter its loss among younger Samoans.

We celebrate the language not so much as a grammatical system, but as a conceptual system – a knowledge system. The vocabulary of Samoan is the inventory of conceptual elements that forms the basis of the Samoan conceptual world, or world-view. Those who acquired it as their first language acquired knowledge of culture-specific Samoan concepts – fa‘alupega (salutations of places that tell of heritage and ancestral lines) which advertises local identity; fa‘asinomaga (points of reference - the immediate and extended family) which delineates relationships in the human environment; fa‘amatai (the chiefly system) which defines appropriate behaviour in the ‘āiga (the extended family) and the fanua (land).

At the same time they also acquire a sense of pride, security and wholesomeness in being Samoan. The sum of these and other concepts make up the Samoan world-view, the peculiarly Samoan perception and perspective.

Languages are ways of talking about different subject matters. Samoan language talks about vā tapuia, the tapu to be observed between specific human relationships, and emphasises feagaiga, the sanctity of the brother-sister relationship.

Pacific languages and world-views emphasise values and beliefs not necessarily emphasised in other languages and world-views. Some subject matters talked about in English are not talked about in Pacific languages, and vice versa. For our people to be bilingual and biliterate in English and Pacific is to capture two conceptual worlds, enriching the life experiences of Pacific peoples in Aotearoa. Our country is adorned by the diversity of its languages and world-views. The loss of Pacific languages in Aotearoa, like the loss of any language of the world, is a diminution in the vision of the species.

But is the Government committed to language diversity in Aotearoa? The Learning Languages component of the New Zealand Curriculum treats all language subjects other than English and Te Reo Māori as second or additional languages. This means the five Pacific language subjects are being taught and assessed in the system as though all students taking them were second language speakers of the languages. But many Samoan and Tongan students are first language speakers of their languages, being already fluent and having some degree of literacy in Samoan and Tongan. For these students there is no provision in the curriculum for their Pacific language education.

The Ministry of Education’s answer to these students is that there is a distinction between learning Pacific languages as additional languages and learning Pacific languages in order to maintain them in New Zealand. It says that the latter is not a function of the language education provided by the Ministry.

Two things are to be said here. First, all language teaching in schools aims ultimately for learners to acquire the language and be able to use it. Is this not also what language maintenance is about? Second, what is implied by the additional language provision is that there is no expectation that students would reach a level of competence that would make them bilingual and biliterate in English and Pacific.

Providing for first language speakers specifically would result in deepening their knowledge and competence in the Pacific language enabling them to become truly bilingual and biliterate. This would give them advantages in their education that would be likely to improve their level of academic achievements.

The struggle for the maintenance of language diversity in New Zealand is a struggle against the linguistic imperialism of the English language. Since the advent of English into the Pacific, the status of Pacific languages has become lower as English became the language of prestige.

The introduction of literacy in English throughout the Pacific during the 19th century has been a major catalyst of change in indigenous cultures and ways of thinking. Literacy in English brought into the Pacific information and knowledge of other ways of doing things. In the words of linguist, the late Donald Topping from the University of Hawai’i: "It is the growing use of these western concepts and languages among the island peoples that is leading them headlong into rapid social change which the vulnerable cultures of the Pacific may not survive." He goes on to say that Pacific peoples will have to choose between literacy in the metropolitan languages and their cultures. If they opt for literacy beyond minimal uses, they can say goodbye to their old belief systems and lifeways. It seems the result has been a decline in Pacific languages not only in New Zealand but in some of the Pacific islands themselves.

Decolonising the Pacific means putting an end to the linguistic imperialism of English. It means bringing back the indigenous languages of the Pacific so that Pacific peoples may become bilingual and biliterate, thereby contributing to the enrichment of this country by its diversity of languages and cultures. The only ways to counter the loss of Pacific languages in New Zealand is for Pacific people to use them, and for the Government to provide the means that would help Pacific New Zealanders to use and learn their languages.

An abridged version of this release was published in the Dominion Post, June, 2011.

Ala’ipule Taulegagana o le Igilisi


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Dr Melenaite Taumoefolau

Dr Melenaite Taumoefolau, Faatonu o le Suesuega Taugagana a le Pasefika, i le Iunivesite o Aukilani

O le vaiaso nei mai i le 1-7 Iuni, e faamanatu aloaia ai i Niu Sila le Gagana Samoa, o le gagana a Samoa, o se vaega e faailoga ai le sologalelei ma le taofimau i Aotearoa, o se tasi ‘anomea tāua e tete’e atu ai i le ‘mou ese atu’ o le Gagana Samoa mai i tupulaga talavou.

Ua tatou faamanatu le gagana, e le o ‘anomea o le kalama, ae o ‘anomea o faugāmanatu – o ‘anomea o le poto. O upu o le Gagana Samoa, o se tusifafau e faamatala au’ili’ili ai faugāmanatu e fausia ai le faavae o le lalolagi o le tofamanino a Samoa po o talitonuga faasāmoa (tu ma aga faasāmoa.) O i latou e taulimaina le Gagana Samoa o la latou gagana muamua e taulima ai le poto i tu ma aga faapitoa o faugāmanatu faasāmoa – e pei o faalupega (gagana o feofoofoa’iga … o nofoaga, e faamatala ai tupuaga ma gafa) e faailoa ai foi faasinomaga faalotoifale; faasinomaga (faiā ma sootaga – o le aiga faalotoifale ma le aiga potopoto) e faamatala i upu sootaga o le siosiomaga faaletagata; faamatai (’anomea faatamali’i) e faamatala ai tu ma aga e onomea ma fitoitonu i le ‘āiga (le ‘āiga potopoto) ma ‘ele’ele (fanua). E le māvaevae le ‘anomea i le gafataulimaina o le iloa lelei o le Gagana Samoa ma o latou mitamitaga faasāmoa, lagona o le saogalemu ma le atoatoaga o lagona o le tagata Samoa. O le atoatoaga o ia lagona ma isi faugāmanatu e fausia ai le ‘lalolagi o talitonuga’ fa’asāmoa, taofi ma ‘vaaiga’ po o le tōfāmanino faasāmoa.

O Gagana o ‘auala ia e talanoa ai i vaega eseese au’ili’ili o so’o se mataupu. E talanoa le Gagana Samoa i le va-tapuia, e paia pe tapu le faatinoga o le avafatafata, le vanonofo ai o tagata uma, e faatauaina ai le feagaiga, uigapaia o le vatapuia o le tuagane ma le tuafafine. O gagana a le Pasifika ma o latou talitonuga faaleatunuu, ua fatauaina ai measina ma talitonuga e lē o faatauaina i isi gagana ma talitonuga faaleatunuu.
O ni isi ‘anomanatu o mataupu ‘olo’o faamatalaina i le Igilisi, e le o faamatalaina i gagana a le Pasifika, pe tu’u faafeagai ia manatu. O o tatou tagata o le silafia ma tomai i le faaaogaina o gagana e lua, le Igilisa ma se gagana Pasefika, e tata’i ai le silafia i lalolagi e lua o fatugamanatu, e faatamaoaigaina ai le tofamanino faasoifuaga nei o tagata o le Pasefika i Aotearoa nei. O lo tatou atunuu ua faamatagofieina i le lasi ma le felanulanua’i o ana gagana ma ana fatugāmanatu. O le sātia o Gagana Pasefika i Aotearoa, e pei o le mou’ese atu ma fītāitūga o so’o se gagana o le lalolagi, o le fa’aitiitia lea o le tōfāsa’ili a tagata soifua.

Aepeita’i, o mata’itūina ‘ea e le Mālō o Niu Sila le lasi ma le felanulanua’i o gagana i Aotearoa nei? O le vāega o le A’oa’oina o Gagana i le Silapasi po o le Ta’iala Aoao o Mataupu o Aoaoga i Niu Sila, ua latou tuufaatasia ai mataupu o gagana, e ese mai ai i le Igilisi ma le gagana Faamāori, ua avea ai le Gagana Samoa po gagana a le Pasefika o se gagana lona lua, po o ni gagana faaopoopo. O le uiga o lea faatūlagaga, o mataupu taugagana e lima a le Pasefika, ua aoaoina ma iloiloina i suega i auala fitoitonu iā i latou e tomai i se gagana lona lua. Ae ui o lea, o le toatele o tama ma teine ā’oga Sāmoa ma Tonga, o lā latou gagana muamua lea, ua le gata ina sōlōgalelei la latou tautala i le gagana Sāmoa ma le gagana Tonga, ma ua maualuga foi lo latou silafia o le gagana faitusi ma le gagana tusitusi faasāmoa ma le faatonga. O nei tama ma teine ā’oga, e leai se muātapenaga i le Ta’iala Aoao o Ā’oga mo le aoaoga o gagana a le Pasefika. O le tali a le Matāgaluega o Aoga mo nei tamaiti aoga e faapea, e leai se eseesega i le va o le aoaoina o gagana a le Pasefika, e avea o se gagana faaopoopo, ma le aoaoina o gagana a le Pasefika, ina ia faatumauina ai ia gagana i Niu Sila. O le manatu lona lua e uiga i le faatumauina o se gagana, e le o se matāfaioi lea a le Matāgaluega a Ā’oga.

E lua ni manatu e fia faaalia i ‘ī. Muamua, o le manulautī po o le sini mata’itūina mo i lātou uma e a’oina gagana i totonu o ā’oga, o le mālosi lea faalemafaufau e taulimaina ai le gagana ma ia tuutuu atu i le loloto le iloa lelei e fa’aaogāina ai le gagana. Pe lē o le manatu lava lea e tasi, e uiga i le fa’amautūina po o le fa’amausalīina o se gagana ina ia ‘aua le sola pe mou atu? Lona lua, o manulautī faatafai, e lē o tūsia mo gagana fa’aopoopo e faapea, e leai se sila-matā’iga faapea, e ‘ausia se tomai e mafai ai ona avea i latou ina ia loloto le iloa lelei o gagana e lua; lava tāpena le faitau ma tusitusi i le Igilisi ma gagana a le Pasefika. O le saunia lelei o i latou e ana se gagana muamua, e mautinoa ai le tuutuu atu i le loloto o lo latou poto ma lo latou tomai i gagana a le Pasefika, e mafai ai foi ona avea ma tagata e atoatoa lelei i gagana e lua ma le iloa lelei faitau ma tusitusi i ia gagana e lua. ‘Ole’ā avea lea tulagamaoa’e i a latou aoga ma e le taumateina le faaleleia atili le siitia i luga o le atamai ma mafai ai ona ‘ausia fuafaatatau faaleaoaoga.

O le tauiviga mo le faatumauina o gagana eseese i Niu Sila o se tauiviga foi lea e tetee atu i le ala’ipule taulegagana o le Igilisi. Talu mai lava le taunuu mai ma le taliaina o le Igilisi i le Pasefika, ua maualalo ai loa le tulaga o gagana a le Pasefika ona o le Igilisi o le gagana e tumaualuga. O le faaulufaleina o le gagana faitau ma le tusitusi o le Igilisi i atumotu o le Pasefika i le seneturi e sefuluiva, ua avea o se ‘anomea o suiga o le atamai i tu ma aga faaatumotu ma ‘anomea i le fausaga o mafaufauga. O tomai i le faitau ma tusitusi i le Igilisi na aumai ai i totonu o le Pasefika ‘anomea o faamatalaga, mafaufauga ma le poto i isi auala e faatino ai ni manatu. I se faaupuga a le alii suesue i gagana ua fai-i-lagi lana folauga, o Donald Topping mai i le Iunivesite o Hawaii: “O le faatuputupu pea le faaaogaina o faugāmanatu mai i atunuu mai i sisifo ma gagana i le lotoifale o tagata o le Pasefika ua limataitaiina ai i latou i suiga vave o lo latou vafealoai, e faaonoāfaina vave ai, tu ma aganuu a le Pasefika ma ‘ole’ā le mafai ai ona ola pea ma tumau. Na ia toe saunoa foi faapea o tagata o le Pasefika e ao ona filifili pe faaaogā gagana faitau ma le tusitusi i totonu o aai tetele faaonaponei ma a latou tu ma aganuu. Afai latou te filifilia le gagana faitau ma tusitusi, ina ia itiiti le faaaogāina, ua mafai loa ona latou faatofa atu i a latou measina, talitonuga ma o latou soifuaga faaatumotu. E foliga mai o le taunuuga, o le mou atu lea ma ‘ole’ā faaitiitia gagana a le Pasefika, e le gata i Niu Sila nei, ae ‘ole’ā faapea foi ma ni isi lava atumotu o le Pasefika.

Toe liuliu le tōfā a le Pasefika, o atunuu māvae na ‘ave faamalosi pe to atu i atunuu tupolo, i le taimi o pulēga fa’akolone, o lona uiga o le faamutaina lea o le ala’ipule faalegagana o le Igilisi. O lona uiga o le toe aumaia lea o gagana a le Pasefika ina ia mafai ona tomai i latou i gagana e lua, e mafai ai ona faitau ma tusitusi i gagana e lua, e mafai ai foi ona tufafaasoa i le faamatagofieina pe faatamaoaigaina lea atunuu i le felanuai o a latou gagana ma aganuu. Ona pau ni auala e taofia ai le sātia pe mou atu gagana a le Pasefika i Niu Sila, o le saga’i ane o āi o le tai, e tatau ma onomea i tagata Pasefika lava latou ia, ona tāpena ma faatāua le galuega lavea’i, o le faaaogaina lea o a latou gagana. E tāua i le Malo o Niu Sila ona latou saunia ni auala e fesoasoani ai i tagatanuu Pasefika o Niu Sila ina ia faaaogaina ma a’oa’oina a latou gagana.