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

Student Testimony

Tongan Learner Hine-A-Rangi Perry

Hine-A-Rangi Perry is proud of her Maori heritage. She grew up speaking English but studied hard to learn te reo Maori. Hine’s partner, Willy, is Tongan and after a few years being together she felt a need to understand his language, culture and protocols. She enrolled in PEC’s Introduction to Tongan Basic Language Class a year ago and has progressed through the Every Day Conversational Class to now attending the Intermediate Tongan Class.

“I have a stepson that is NZ-born and I wanted to learn so that I can help my partner teach his son Tongan language and culture,” she says. “We visited Tonga before I started taking Tongan classes, and at that time I had no understanding of the language. The people in Tonga learn English so I could speak to them and they understood me, but I was most impressed by the kids in Tonga. It was cool to see them interact with each other in their native tongue. My stepson being born here and not growing up in the islands means he doesn’t have that same opportunity for interaction in the language.”

Hine says she loves coming to PEC and while learning a new language and culture is not without its challenges, it has been very rewarding. “The PEC staff and tutors are open and willing to share their cultural knowledge. They are so welcoming. As a non-Tongan I was tentative about enrolling but I’m so glad I did. My whole class were either NZ-born Tongans or those of us who are interested in Tonga or married to Tongans. It has been good to meet other people who are involved in learning Tongan language and culture.”  

The highlight of her learning experience has been to be able to communicate with and better understand her partner and his family. “My Mother-In-Law understands me but when she speaks English it’s limited. It has helped to be able to speak and understand Tongan in my relationship with her. Even my partner Willie is proud that I am taking classes. He tells all his friends that I am learning Tongan. I tell my friends that are Tongan or that are with Tongans to enrol. It’s just a couple of hours a week. It’s fun and it’s free.”

Looking ahead, Hine hopes to continue as a student at PEC. “I plan to extend my Tongan language journey because it doesn’t matter how fluent somebody thinks they are, there is always room for more learning. I want to keep learning so I can teach my kids about both their Maori and Tongan cultures.”

This year we have had over 900 enrolments at PEC. We understand that the need for learning Pacific languages is at an all-time high in our communities. We value our students for their commitment to learning Pacific language and cultures. 

Testimonial: Dr Sikoti Hamilton


I wanted to send a message to the Tongan tutor Frederick Loa Alatini, who has been heroically attempting the very difficult task of overseeing my ako ako of the Tongan language. I have had great fun in Frederick's classes, but won't be able to make it any more of them, because I'm heading with my family up to Tonga this week on a slow boat, and then spending a couple of weeks on Tongatapu and 'Eua.

I very much appreciate what I learned in the class, both from the teacher and from the talanoa of the other students, who were a splendid bunch. I'm bringing the exercise book from class as well as my trusty Tongan dictionary and 'Okusi Mahina's marvellous collection of Tongan proverbs with me to the Kingdom, and I'm hoping to practice the language up there. I'm giving a seminar in Nuku'alofa on the 18th, and will use the introduction Frederick taught me: it is a lot more poetic and resonant than 'Hello everyone'!

I hope to continue to learn Tongan after I return to Nu'u Sila.

'Ofa atu,

Dr Sikoti Hamilton

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