My Tongan voice

07 September 2019

Tule Tuinauvai and daughter Tupou.

Meet Tule Tuinauvai, Practice Manager for SouthSeas Healthcare and a proud Tongan mother. Tule speaks both Tongan and English fluently. Although English was never a barrier for Tule growing up, she holds on strongly to her Tongan language among other values she was taught as a child and she’s now passing on to her daughter and demonstrating at work.

“As a Tongan, family is important growing up. I have been brought up with the values of respect, kindness and love to my parents, siblings and extended family, and this can be extended to your colleagues in the workplace.”

“It is important that I’ve passed these values on to my daughter, especially faka'apa'apa, or respect. I’ve also encouraged my daughter to speak Tongan and be proud of ther heritage.”

“Speaking our Tongan language is very important. It is our trademark in the world but it’s also our sense of belonging.”

Tule says Tongans need to speak the language more and be proud of it.

“I am extremely lucky I was raised to speak Tongan at home my whole life. I try and do the same with my daughter. I think retaining our language comes down to whether parents pass the language on or not.”

“My language is important to me and for my daughter to learn for the sake of the future of our culture. Knowing how to speak the language can make it easier to interact in conversations with most of our family and friends who remain in Tonga.”

Tule says church helps language retention.

“I was also raised in the Assembly of God, which helped a lot with my Tongan language, as the service is conducted in Tongan. It helps my daughter too.”

“I love my culture and my language and I carry that with me at work. Only Tongans can uphold the Tongan language and culture in New Zealand and the language week celebration reminds us how important it is to hold on to our language,” says Tule.

SouthSeas celebrates diverse Pacific languages and cultures.

“We are very lucky to be in an organisation that upholds language and culture in everything we do. We have other Tongan colleagues in SouthSeas and we are comfortable conversing in our language as well as serving Tongan families accessing the clinic. Speaking in Tongan captures the essence of being who we are as Tongans.”

Last year, SouthSeas Tongan staff led a sing-along, including a demonstration of the kava ceremony and a taste of Tongan food as their way of embracing their culture, language and identity at work.

“We cannot ignore the importance of language weeks and we see them as a way of teaching others our language and simple things they need to know about Tongan people and our way of living.”

Tule and other Tongan staff members are taking the celebration of the Tongan Language Week to Otara Shopping Centre, acknowledging their language and culture existing within SouthSeas and how important Tongan language is in their dealing with clients, families and communities they serve.

At the time of the 2013 census, there were over 60,000 New Zealanders who identified as Tongan. Tongan is the seventh most spoken language in Auckland, with 23,088 people able to speak it.

Tongan Language Week or Uike Kātoanga’i ‘o e Lea Faka-Tonga started on Sunday, 1 September and runs through to Saturday, September 7. This year's theme is Fakakoloa 'o Aotearoa 'aki 'a e Tauhi Fonua, meaning A Tongan Perspective of Enriching Aotearoa, New Zealand.

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