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Learning mother tongue an asset: Jenny Salesa Featured

Jenny Salesa MP Jenny Salesa MP

5 September, 2017. Primary school teachers in Auckland are urging Pasifika parents to speak to their children in their mother tongue as they say it helps them succeed in English.

Tonga-born MP Jenny Salesa said over her time in parliament she has asked principals and teachers what skills children need when they start school.

She said she had been told too many children of Tongan descent in New Zealand start school at the age of five speaking neither language fluently.

She has been stressing the message that learning Tongan can benefit their education overall.

"If they are are fluent in speaking the Tongan language, it is so much easier to build the English language on top of a language that they are already fluent in, that building all sorts of other skills is so much better and that's a message that I try to remember to tell our parents and the community whenever I speak."

Tongan Language Week is being celebrated in New Zealand this week.

There are just over 60,000 people of Tongan descent living in Aotearoa New Zealand, making them the third largest Pacific group in the country.


1 comment

  • Aisea Matiu
    Aisea Matiu Tuesday, 05 September 2017 14:21 Comment Link

    It is indeed lovely and truly mind-satisfying and heart-warming to see, hear and know the great support rendered to Tongan mother tongue by our very own beloved and caring Tongan bilingual Tongan-English speaking MP Jenny Salesa.

    But, more importantly, may I also add that, as "they also to say" (i.e., experts in the field), all three, viz., knowledge (and skills), culture and language are one and the same and neither is separate from one another.

    Quite simply, it means we must learn to know Tongan knowledge contained in Tongan culture and spoken in Tongan language and not just Tongan knowledge on its own nor Tongan culture on its own nor Tongan language on its own.

    On that basic understanding, then, should "Tongan Language Week" be changed to "Tongan Knowledge, Culture and Language Week?" The latter is much fuller, richer and meaningful than the former which is misleading and making no real sense.


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