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Published Friday 3 Jun 2022

Talofa Lava everyone! We across the Hutt Valley and Capital & Coast DHBs have been celebrating Samoan Language Week and one staff member has shared with us the importance of celebrating and embracing Samoan language and culture.

Samoan Language Week 2022 is being celebrated in Aotearoa between 29 May and 4 June and this year’s theme is Fa’aāuāu le Folauga i le Va’a o Tautai - Continue the Voyage with Competent Wayfinders of the Ocean.

This year marks 12 years of celebrating Samoan Language Week in Aotearoa which this year also aligns with a big milestone for the Samoan community with the island nation celebrating its 60th Anniversary of Independence.

CCDHB Endocrine, Diabetes & Research Centre Charge Nurse Manager and native Samoan speaker Sera Tapu-Ta’ala moved to New Zealand with her parents in the late 90's from their village of Auala on the island of Savaii, Samoa, where she was born and raised. She has been nursing for over twenty years and has been a specialist nurse for 16 years.

We asked Sera some questions on the importance of having the Samoan language and culture in our community.

How important is it to celebrate Samoan Language Week?

“I believe it is very important to celebrate the Gagana Samoa for Samoan communities across Aotearoa, especially our tamaiti (children) who are born here, to have a form of anchor they hold on to for developing their Samoan identity and be reminded of who they are and where they come from. I also believe it has relevance for all New Zealanders particularly speakers of native languages to protect their language. That said, assurance and ongoing support in our education system and infrastructures shall continue to ensure the Samoan language remains a subject option in our schools and is made available in our tertiary curriculum's to allow for ongoing nurturing of the Gagana Samoa and safeguarding it for future generations.

"I want to acknowledge the ingenious alignment of the Samoan Language Week in Aotearoa to Samoa’s Independence Week elevating the celebration to a unique level of specialness for all Samoan people here as they reflect on historical accounts, the struggles to independence and irreplaceable value of the Gagana Samoa.”

What do you personally love about the Samoan language?

“I love the fact that I am able to connect to my community and interact fluently in our own language. Specifically to elders in the Samoan community and in our church at Porirua because that will be their language of choice as native speakers themselves. In fact, whenever I am among Samoan people or in the Samoan communities, I will only speak Samoan. I do not speak English unless in special circumstances.

"I also go to Samoa Capital radio to talk diabetes to the Samoan listeners. The use of the Gagana Samoa to deliver health education for diabetes care and management empowers our Samoan community to lead healthier lives and support them to understand they have control over diabetes and not the other way around – that in itself is a big deal to me. It is a real blessing.”

How does being able to speak Samoan help in the health sector?

“Being able to speak Samoan helps me a great deal in the health sector. I recall growing up in Samoa wanting so badly to speak English. You have this false understanding as a youngster that top jobs are for those who can only speak English. Thankfully my parents knew best because it was their constant nudge for us to keep speaking Samoan at home that helped us retain our language. I am so grateful to them for that! Being able to speak Samoan is invaluable for my profession and clinical work in diabetes knowing well half of the Pacific population in Aotearoa are Samoan people and having the ability to speak Samoan breaks down barriers for Samoan patients and lifts their understanding that they too are responsible for their own health and the health of their families.

"I want to make a special mention that the Gagana Samoa typically has distinctive nuances. There is everyday Gagana Samoa, the formal one and the honorific or oratory Gagana Samoa. Having an understanding of these distinctive differences and being able to speak contributes to successful interactions and productive conversations with patients and communities."

How can we all embrace Samoan Language Week?

“I think there is a lot we can all do to embrace Samoan Language Week either as individuals, as teams or as an organisation. We could learn the commonly used phrases for everyday conversations with colleagues to promote our own awareness and engagement. As an organisation, Samoan staff could be supported to showcase activities on the Gagana Samoa and host activities that build staff confidence and encourage use of the Samoan language with patients for engagement and rapport."

Below are some common Samoan phrases you can start to learn yourself:

Talofa Lava (Hello) - Pronounced: Tah-law-fah-lah-vah

O a mai oe? (How are you?) - Pronounced: Oh-ah-mai-oh-eh?

O ai lou igoa? (What is your name?) - Pronounced: Oh-ai-low-igoa?

Fa’afetai tele lava (Thank you very much) - Pronounced: Fah-ah-feh-tah-i-lah-vah

Malo lava (Well done) - Pronounced: Mah-loh-lava

Fa’amolemole (Please) - Pronounced: Fah-ah-moh-leh-moh-eh

Tofa Soifua (Goodbye) - Pronounced: Tore-fah-soy-foo-ah

Manuia le aso (Have a good day) - Pronounced: Mah-noo-year-leh-ah-soh

Samoan Proverb:

O le ala i le pule o le tautua.

(The pathway to leadership is through service).