Celebrating Kiribati language week: ‘We are proud of our language’

Sailosa Tuean Iotia, a i-Kiribati community leader sees Kiribati language week “as an opportunity for us to look at what we need to do to maintain our Kiribati language.”

“We see this week every year as an opportunity for us to look at what we need to do to maintain our Kiribati language and our culture as our identity in New Zealand,” Iotia said.

“We will do our best we can to make sure our young generation will grow up and continue to speak and practise the traditions.”

She said the largest New Zealand I-Kiribati community is in Auckland, as that’s where most of the first wave of I-Kiribati migrants to New Zealand settled.

There are also groups of I-Kiribati in Wellington, Porirua, and Levin.

“We are so proud of our language and this week encourages us to promote our language and our culture to our young generation because we know living in a foreign land is hard for our children to continue to speak the language, to write, and to practice the culture.

She said the community in New Zealand works closely with the Kiribati government and their families back home, who support the language week by sending music and stories.

“The end of the language week celebrations will take place in Tauranga which will be celebrated jointly with the country’s 45th Independence Day celebrations.

Iotia said that the I-Kiribati community is thankful that they have been included in the Pacific Language Weeks, in Aotearoa.

Regina Temarawa Kabiriera, a New Zealand-born I-Kiribati, said the highlight for her is seeing the community come together.

“I enjoy seeing the community coming together to celebrate our language and to uphold our cultural values and keep our language alive.”

She said it’s also great to see the elders of the community help teach the language to younger people.

Tuman Tomata, who has been in Aotearoa since 1974, said there were no I-Kiribati when she arrived, and it was hard to maintain the language.

“There were no I-Kiribati in Porirua to communicate with, so I started to learn my husband’s language [Niuean]. So I speak only English and Niuean language and no Kiribati.”

L-R  Tuman Tomata, Regina Temarawa Kabiriera and Sailosa Tuean Iotia

She said when she met I-Kiribati students, for the first time, it was hard to converse and they laughed at her because some of the words I used were Niuean and not Kiribati.

“That made me realise that it was important for me to maintain my language, so I can pass it on to my children and grandchildren, who want to know more about Kiribati as they were all brought up in New Zealand.”

She said she is now more fluent in Kiribati and she’s proud that she’s keeping the language alive for her family.

Kiribati Language week is being celebrated across Aotearoa with Kiribati-related cultural events.

The theme of this year’s celebrations is ‘thriving and flourishing our Kiribati language, culture, and knowledge to build I-Kiribati resilience and prosperity’.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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