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June 6, 2017 | by  | in One Ocean |
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One Ocean

Last week was Samoan Language Week and I feel that language weeks can be good and bad (this is just my own fiapoko* opinion, k?)

O itū lelei (the good):

  • They emphasise the fact that our languages are legitimate, learnable, even lyrical (Samoan metaphors, uce, gotta love those!)
  • They raise national, even regional awareness that a lot of Pasifika languages have been made into “second class” dialects.
  • They’re not just about languages. All the myths, legends, chants, and art that colour Oceania are also celebrated. In doing this, language weeks give people from other cultures the chance to explore and appreciate these gems.

O itū e fa’alēlelei (the bad):

  • They can sometimes make you feel a bit… not so good, if you’re from the country being celebrated but don’t speak the language fluently, especially when people ask you to teach them a line or two in your language and you have to tell them that you’re “still learning.” Or when people talk to you in the language and you say “hmm” every five seconds so they know you’re listening, and hope they won’t notice that you are avoiding embarrassing yourself by answering in full sentences.

Having parents from two different countries, I grew up speaking English (yay, colonialism). Before I started high school, my Samoan sounded like that moment in Laughing Samoans when Tala says, “e lele-leeeiloa e auuu faaaSamowaaa. A lot of the #realSamoans I knew would get so mad at me for even trying. However, I still love language weeks, and I believe that our celebration of our languages should not be limited to seven days, once a year. Oi and I don’t think there should be such a strict criteria for being a #realSamoan or #realWhateverItIs that we’re celebrating.  

Fa la’ia!

 

* “know-it-all”

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