WHY LEARN PACIFIC LANGUAGES? (FOR FOREIGNERS)

You are not a Pacific Islander nor a person of Pacific descent. You are a foreigner (palagi, haole, ribelle, I-matang, kai valagi, etc.), who I presume likes studying languages and is interested in the beautiful islands of Oceania. I’m just taking a wild guess here, but – please tell me – am I even remotely close? I think I am – you are visiting this site, after all.

You might be wondering why I’ll be trying to encourage you to learn the native tongues of Pasifika. It’s no secret that being multilingual is a very beneficial trait. But, let’s be honest, mastering a language takes a lot of time; usually your hard-earned free time you could spend having fun, relaxing, or doing the things you like. It is also arduous work, which requires determination and commitment. So why bother? Why learn some little-known tongues you’ll probably never use? Well, I’ll tell you exactly why. And I sincerely hope you’ll agree with me after you finish reading my words.

It will be a great challenge

It’s one thing to study a foreign language, it’s another to do it when there are virtually no resources available. Forget about all the fancy apps, don’t really count on the Internet. It’s going to be you and your textbook, provided you’re able to find it first. I won’t lie to you, learning any of the Pacific languages is an enormous challenge. But, you know what they say – the bigger the challenge, the greater the reward. As soon as you start grasping the intricacies of grammar and feel capable of constructing your own – maybe not yet fully correct – sentences, you will simply swell with pride.

You’ll get to know fascinating cultures

When you study a language – especially when you study it in depth – you learn a great deal about the culture of its native speakers. It’s a lot like discovering a whole new world you never realised was there before. This is especially true when it comes to Oceania, probably the remotest and least known place on the planet Earth. So when others are busy exploring the Frenchness of the French, you just immerse yourself in the beauty of Polynesian, Micronesian, and Melanesian ways of being. The Islanders’ kind-hearted attitude – so clearly reflected in their languages – may change you as a person and your entire approach to life.

It will open up wonderful opportunities for you

Most people decide to learn a foreign language if it’s useful for them. Now, I know what you want to ask: in what ways can Samoan, Marshallese, Tokelauan, or Bislama be useful? I admit, you probably won’t need it at work. It might, however, impress your current or future boss. Who wouldn’t want to have an employee who speaks Fijian for example? Plus, the knowledge of any of these recondite tongues may encourage you to become a volunteer (some of the biggest volunteer organizations have a strong presence in the Pacific countries), an overseas charity worker, or simply a tourist (reason enough to move from the couch?). Because when you learn a language, you acquire passion.

You’ll help to save a language

Although the major tongues of Oceania – like Samoan, Tongan, Fijian, Gilbertese, or Marshallese – are not at imminent risk of extinction, it’s important to remember that even they have a relatively small number of speakers, which means that one day they might be placed on the “endangered languages list”. To “survive”, a language has to be used – it’s as simple as that. But why should you – a foreigner with no connection to any of the Pacific islands bother? Well, to do something good and worthwhile. It’s a wonderful feeling, believe me.

You’ll impress yourself; and other people

We all want to be considered smart and intelligent just as much as we want to be thought of as kind and good-natured. It is actually proven that speaking a foreign language improves the functionality of a brain. And while anyone can learn Italian, French, Spanish, German, or even Japanese, Oceanic tongues constitute more of a challenge. Pijin, Chamorro, Tuvaluan, Niuean, Yapese, Drehu… Learning these is no mean feat! However, if you try to do just that, you’ll be utterly thrilled you succeeded. And your family and friends? They’ll have nothing but pure admiration for you, and rightfully so. You’ll be the one who managed to learn Palauan, after all. That counts for something, doesn’t it?


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