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Learning Samoan Language at a young age

Research shows that learning a second language boosts problem-solving, critical-thinking, and listening skills, improving memory, concentration, and multitasking

A common saying in the Lupe Fofoa i Vaoese class, "A leai se gagana, ua leai se aganu'u, a leai se aganu'u, ua po le nu'u" in English it translates to, if you there is no language, there will be no culture. If there is no culture, then the village will lie in darkness. If we don't teach and learn our Samoan language, we will face losing more than the language..we lose our identity.

We have to start somewhere.

On a crusade to help save the Samoan language, Lupe Fofoa i Vaoese started 2023 with a new partnership with Papatoetoe East Primary School today by forming and conducting its first Samoa Language Class.

In order to ensure that the curriculum was the right fit for the children, the partnership took months to create and develop. Students in this class are in years 5 and 6.

The Samoan language teacher Asiata Pio Vaoliko was ecstatic to be a part of this journey of teaching the language, he said: "Our Samoan culture begins with prayer, so we start with a prayer, and then we moved to the introductions".

To determine the level of proficiency and comprehension of the students, they were asked to introduce themselves in the Samoan language. Aside from understanding their level of speaking the Samoan language, Asiata was able to connect their surnames to village of origin. "Most Samoan names are from an event, location and connection, your name and your surname has a lot to do with your gafa, your heritage" said Asiata

Leaupepe Talai, a board member expressed his gratitude to Nicola Eley on behalf of the Lupe Fofoa i Vaoese Chair Person,Asiata Atinae Vaai and the executive members of the board

"This is a golden opportunity, and the school was happy to let us teach the Samoa language and culture, which will benefit the long-term survival of the Fa'asamoa outside of Samoa", said Leaupepe.

How does the Samoan language help New Zealand-born Samoan kids thrive in school?

Research suggests that learning a second language improves problem-solving, critical thinking, listening skills, memory, concentration, and multitasking. Additionally, children proficient in other languages are more creative and mentally flexible.

Young children can absorb and reproduce new sounds, meaning they can learn fluent pronunciation, allowing them to have fun and play activities and make mistakes without the self-consciousness or embarrassment that often acts as discouragement for older students.

Leaupepe said that many New Zealand-born Samoans sometimes need help with identity because of a lack of understanding and opportunities to learn and maintain the language, especially second and third-generation New Zealand-born Samoans.

Asiata wanted to acknowledge the mammoth task undertaken by the first Samoan migrants, such as the pastors and churches that became a substitute for a village setting in Samoa. He also paid tribute to the Samoan educators who were consistent in not only teaching but pushed and advocating for the language to be included in the education curriculum of New Zealand.

"Our hope here is to add on to the strong foundation, that has been laid down by those who came before, my job is to continue that and help maintain the Samoan language" concluded Asiata.



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