Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Le Tofi ne'i Vale Tuulima: Perceptions of Samoan Students, Teachers and Parents on the Place of the Samoan Language in New Zealand Today

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posted on 2021-11-10, 10:11 authored by Wilson, Salainaoloa Lisa-Maree

While globally languages are evolving and changing, language shift has been most prevalent in migrant communities, particularly those with larger numbers living outside of the homelands, such as the Samoan community in New Zealand. This research explored the perceptions of a group of Wellington-based Samoan students, their Samoan teachers, and their parents about the place of the Samoan language in New Zealand today. This study of Samoan language maintenance was spurred by the census data which showed language loss was occurring, and that this seemed to be more prevalent amongst the New Zealand-born Samoan population. The aims of this study were to capture the views of these three groups so as to add meaning to the quantitative data, and provide information for future policy making and actions to address this situation - both for Government agencies, and the Samoan community itself. This case study gave priority to the youth voice as the future leaders and carriers of the gagana Samoa (Samoan language) and aganuu (culture). Using the talanoa methodology and through individual interviews, valuable insights were gained about the valuing of the Samoan language in New Zealand today, factors influencing the learning and teaching of Samoan, and who should be responsible for this. The findings were that all groups valued the Samoan language very highly as inextricably linked to the Samoan culture, identity and sense of belonging, and for communicating and showing respect - to elders especially, but also to all Samoan people. Of particular note, was the distinction between the intrinsic valuing of the language which was high, and its usefulness, for example in employment, which was not so highly rated. These differences may be a 'tipping' point for language maintenance. Other findings were that responsibility for the Samoan language was changing as the functional domains for language use and maintenance shifted from the home and the church, to the school. Parents' long work hours were a factor here. Finally, there was strong agreement that maintaining the Samoan language in New Zealand would require commitment and collaboration between government agencies, Samoan parents and community, teachers, and that youth must be included in these discussions. All three groups saw our talanoa as setting the basis for more serious community wide discussions.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Pacific Studies

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Arts

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

Va'aomanu Pasifika


Fairbairn-Dunlop, Tagaloatele Peggy