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At the forefront of Pacific Language and Culture in Aotearoa since 1978

Re-Learning the Tongan Language

Learning how to speak Tongan again is helping Ahota’e’iloa Toetu’u reconnect with his family, community and Tongan identity.

The artist and senior art teacher was born in Tonga but lost some of his fluency in the Tongan language when he came to New Zealand.

“Tongan was my first language, but once I started going to primary school in New Zealand, English took over,” recalls Ahota’e’iloa. As a PEC Tongan learner, he is turning the tide.

Ahota’e’iloa has been reclaiming his identity through the Tongan language classes at PEC and says the tutors are knowledgeable and welcoming.

“We also learn about the way our ancestors lived and what was important to them at that time. Some Tongan words have no English equivalents and they teach you the meanings behind them.”

Communicating with his Tongan family and community has been an added bonus from the language classes and Ahota’e’iloa intends to continue sharing his knowledge with his children and wider Tongan community.

Mixing with other Tongans on the same language journey has also been fulfilling for Ahota’e’iloa. He’s not the only person on the Tongan language journey and knows there are others who should join the language vaka.

“If you’re thinking of taking the Tongan language course, sign up and get started,” urges Ahota’e’iloa. “There’s no need to be shy, the classes are fun.”

“I encourage students of the language to come and learn. You’ve got everything to gain, you’ve got your culture to maintain. Be a life learner and be strong in your Tongan culture.”

Tongan classes range from Introductory to Lea Faka Fonua ‘a e Tonga which are 10 weeks long and start in late-July 2018. All classes are NZQA accredited and are held once a week.


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