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Toddler teachers take language skills home

Dec 6th, 2010 | By | Category: Diversity, Front Page Layout, Latest News, News

TINY TEACHER: Children of Newtown's Aoga Amata preschool are teaching Samoan to their families.

TINY TEACHER: Children of Newtown's Aoga Amata preschool are teaching Samoan to their families.

WHAT is happening in a Newtown preschool is what an Auckland University researcher believes needs to happen to preserve pacific languages in New Zealand.

The preschoolers at Aoga Amata preschool learn in both English and Samoan – and then take their language skills home, an approach supported by postgraduate research student Judy Taligalu McFall-McCaffery.

She says in Samoan and Tongan communities only about 44 percent of the New Zealand-born population can speak their own language and that could drop to 24 percent in the next generation.

Her research paper looked at Samoan, Tongan, Niue and the dialects of Cook Island Māori – the four largest Pacific Island languages in New Zealand.

Aoga Amata head teacher Fuaina Taulia says 22 children between the ages of 18 months and 5 years from various ethnic backgrounds learn in Samoan and English at the preschool.

Mrs Taulia says the use of Samoan in schools is not enough to ensure the survival of the language in New Zealand.

“Children need to be taking the language home, where they will not only use it more but teach it to the family.”

A father of a four year old girl recently told Mrs Taulia he could not believe how much his daughter had learnt – she had become the Samoan teacher at home to her parents and brothers.

Prompted by stories like this, the preschool wants to start initiatives to get families speaking more Samoan at home.

“We are trying to get more resources so children can take Samoan language media home, to increase their learning and their families.”  Mrs Taulia says.

She advises parents to use Samoan as much as possible, and compares having one language in a community to having one ingredient in a recipe.

“Languages are like ingredients, we need many ingredients in a recipe to make it interesting and tasty. Many languages make a community interesting and tasty too.”

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