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

Samoan Classes a Family Affair

Learning the Samoan language is a family affair for Bryan Leilua, his daughter Ella, and his sister Rose Lamont.

The family trio attends PEC’s Samoan language classes together and say making the time to do it is a priority.

“I work as a teacher of learning and behaviour, I’m studying for a postgraduate diploma and my wife and I have just had a baby,” says Bryan. “There’s no real excuse to say that you don’t have enough time.” “We make time for this because it’s important for us, and coming together as a family makes it a weekly event, a great time to catch up.”

Bryan, his sister Rose and their siblings were born in New Zealand to parents who emigrated from Samoa. Growing up, the family communicated mostly in English. They’re hoping the rest of the family will catch on and join the classes including Rose’s two sons.

“My kids are half Samoan, so I want to ensure they’re connecting with their Samoan side,” says Rose. “Our tutor is very supportive, it’s really fun, so it’s not like we’re sitting in a classroom just reading, there are lots of opportunities to practise with each other.”

“It’s also helped me communicate with my parents,” adds Rose. “They’ve helped me a lot with the speeches, and they’ve got really enthusiastic about what we’re doing as well.”

With help from Rose and Bryan’s mother, Ella has gained more confidence in speaking Samoan. Sick of being labelled a ‘plastic’ Samoan, Ella says learning Samoan at PEC has helped her strengthen her identity.

“I’ve always wanted to learn Samoan so I did the first semester,” says Ella. “After that, my grandma started telling me a lot more stories. I feel like my grandma has helped all of us individually and that’s helped us all to really bond as a family.”

The trio aren’t keeping their new knowledge to themselves. Ella, who plans to travel to Japan next year, is keen to share her Samoan language skills overseas. Rose has been trying to encourage her boys to join. And Bryan is already sharing what he’s learnt with other teachers at work and he’s looking forward to going up levels.

“It’s been good finding other Samoans who are in the same boat as us,” says Bryan. “People who’ve lost their connection to the language. It’s been good to find some kindred spirits.”


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