2019 is the International Year of Indigenous Languages. That’s undoubtedly a wonderful initiative, but what does it actually mean? Well, completely nothing unless we – the people of this world – make a commitment to celebrate this year the way it deserves to be celebrated. I happen to have a few ideas how you can do just that; especially if you want to focus on the Pacific tongues.
For Pacific languages speakers
1. Aim for fluency
If you’re lucky enough to speak a Pacific language (one or maybe even more!), try to get better and better. In other words, work towards fluency. I know it may seem ridiculous – we don’t learn a language to be the best or to prove something to others but to communicate with people. But think about it for a while – if you master a chosen tongue, you’ll be able to pass on your knowledge. Maybe your next door neighbour will be your first student?
2. Speak the language on a daily basis
So you already know one of the Pacific languages, but how often do you use it? Every day? That’s marvellous – you can cross this one off. However, if you use Samoan, Bislama, Chuukese only sporadically, why don’t you try to change it? This year is a great occasion to do it. So make a resolution for the next ten months to speak the language every single day with as many people as you can. It may be quite a challenge, but I believe in you!
3. Teach others
If you are a fluent speaker (always aim for fluency!), you can – and even should – teach other people. That way you will actively contribute to saving the language you already know. Which is extremely important – it’s not a secret that quite a few Pacific tongues (in this case “quite a few” means over 200) are currently on the endangered languages list.
4. Watch Pacific language movies and TV programmes
Yes, you can enjoy yourself while doing something worthwhile. Watching movies is a great way to spend free time, I don’t think I have to tell you that. So how about watching Pacific language movies? There are a few very good ones, like “Tanna”, “Moana”, “The Land of Eb”, “Jilel”, “The Orator”, etc. Invite your family and friends, make some popcorn, and spend a nice evening learning the language… I mean, having fun. Maybe you can do it once a month?
1. Choose a Pacific language you would like to learn
That’s right – simply choose a language. It’s not always easy to start learning one of the Pacific tongues. But you have to start from somewhere. So think carefully which language will be the best option for you. Perhaps you run your own business and have clients who are Samoans? Or maybe you like challenges and would prefer to opt for little-known Nengone? If you take this first step, there’s a higher chance the rest will follow.
2. Learn at least one new word a day
Are you learning a Pacific language and have little time to study? Well, there is a solution. You can try to memorize one new word every day. It’s doable – it really is. Just put the word on a flashcard and carry it with you. And now count how many words you will know on the 31st of December. A profitable idea, isn’t it?
3. Take a language course
If you live in a place with a sizeable Pacific community, you will surely find a Pacific language course. Go for it! Not only will you work with a teacher, but you’ll also meet new people who have the same interests as you. Plus, your motivation will probably increase!
4. Make friends
Try to find people in your neighbourhood who are Pacific Islanders or who speak / are learning Pacific languages. There’s nothing better than sharing your passion with another person. You’ll be able to learn together and from each other. Who knows, maybe this will be the beginning of a beautiful friendship?
1. Read Pacific Literature books and / or books set in the Pacific Islands – you can get to know so many new words!
2. Listen to Pacific Islands music – even if you don’t understand the lyrics!
3. Encourage others to learn Pacific tongues – convince at least one person, and it will be your great success!
4. Organize a Pacific language theme party – you’ll learn something while having fun!