2019: International Year of Indigenous Languages

By Mānia Clarke

The United Nations has named 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages to preserve, revitalise and promote the world's languages.

Māori Language expert Tawhirimatea Williams says preservation of any language starts in the home.

“The language must be spoken at home, it must be spoken all the time, everywhere, to your children and grandchildren,” says Williams, “They must be taught to reply in their language.”

For some South Auckland locals their indigenous language is everything.

“If I want to talk to my children I want to talk in my own language,” says Samoan grandmother Malia Tanuto.

"I don't want to talk to them in English because our own language is our first language to speak."

The United Nations wants indigenous languages to be appreciated for the important contribution they make to the world's cultural diversity.

There are an estimated 7,000 indigenous languages, of which 2,680 are considered to be in danger.

Atiu grandmother Tutai Tutavake says leaving the motherland has caused challenges.

“My own children are speaking in Raro sometimes yes, but talking to their children in English,” Tutavake says.

“All my children were born in Samoa and we came here and started going to school in New Zealand,” says Tunato, “But by that time they came home and I heard, I couldn't hear anyone speaking Samoan.”

However Fijian-born Indian Sarlaunen Parmar says with perseverance results will show.

“Mostly, our Gujarati people, we speak to the kids in our Gujarati language,” says Parmar.

“For my grandson he is six now he speaks perfect Gujarati now.”

The official global launch of IYIL will take place in Paris later this month on the 28th.