Tuvalu Language Week: Children’s bilingual books launched to mark Independence Day

Dancers perform at a traditional community celebration at Funafuti in Tuvalu.  (file image)

Mario Tama/Getty Images

Dancers perform at a traditional community celebration at Funafuti in Tuvalu. (file image)

Eight bilingual children’s books and audiobooks were released to mark the end of Tuvalu Language Week and the small nation’s Independence Day.

Written by young Tuvaluans in New Zealand, most of whom have never set foot on the island, the books feature stories from Nanumea, Nui, Nukufetau, Funafuti, Nukulaelae, Nanumanga, Vaitupu and Niutao.

Sunday marks the end of the week-long celebration of Tuvalu Language Week, which carried the theme Fakamautu ke mautakitaki te Gagana Tuvalu mo te atafai, fakaaloalo mo te amanaiagina.

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This means: sustainably cultivate the Tuvalu language with care, respect and dignity.

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A first series of books, written by children of primary school age, was launched two years ago.

This time the new lot was written by teenagers and young adults and each book contains 16 pages of legends, myths and traditions specific to each of the islands.

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Sagaa Malua of the Tuvalu Community Trust said there were 300 copies of each book, written in both English and Tuvaluan, available in libraries across Auckland.

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Audio books are also available, she said.

“It’s exciting and so important to have because there are few sources for children’s books in Tuvaluan in New Zealand,” Malua said.

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“It’s made up of stories about their own culture, stories passed down from the older generation, stories from their own islands. The authors did their own research, speaking to elders and their own families.

“It was a good way for them to learn about their own culture as well.”

The books were published by the Tuvalu Auckland Community Trust with financial support from the Department of Pacific Peoples.

Malua said unlike the first books, which people had to buy, the new lot would be free “so everyone can access it.”

Tuvalu, the fourth smallest nation in the world, is threatened by climate change and its language is classified as

Mario Tama/Getty Images

Tuvalu, the fourth smallest nation in the world, is threatened by climate change and its language is classified as “definitely endangered” by UNESCO. (file image)

“The first set of books got a great response from the community, we even had a bulk order from Tuvalu.

“These stories and seeing them in libraries connects our children to our island. Many of them have never been to Tuvalu.”

Tuvalu, a low-lying South Pacific island of 11,000 people, has been classified by the United Nations Development Program as extremely vulnerable to climate change.

The fourth smallest country in the world is also struggling to save its language with only 11,000 speakers in the world.

The Tuvaluan language is classified as “definitely endangered” on the Unesco list of endangered languages, which means that children are no longer learning the language at home as a first language.

Nearly 5000 Tuvaluans live in New Zealand, 48% of whom use Te Gana Tuvalu.

MP Aupito William Sio said it’s time for all Kiwis to do their part to reduce the impact of climate change on the Pacific, but support their language to ensure their people are doing well.

“With a population of 4,653 in New Zealand, it is important to ensure that the Tuvalu language, culture and identity continues to be sustainable in Aotearoa.”