My parents came to NZ and didn’t understand or speak any English so naturally at home we spoke Samoan. But at school I spoke broken English - a mixture of Samoan and English. At church we spoke, read the Bible, sat exams and sang hyms in Samoan. Speaking the Samoan language was imbedded in every aspect of life. I could read it, write it and speak it.
It helped me cross between two cultures: the Kiwi way and the Samoan way. It was useful when I needed to interpret the "white man's" thinking and translate this to my mother and siblings. Speaking Samoan with a Kiwi accent meant that I was part of a generation breaking new ground. It meant that I could use this gift from God to serve in my family, in my community, in my workplace and in God’s church.
Where does language come from? It comes from God. It is a gift of God to us. It reflects and reveals him. The first time we see God speaking in the history of the world is at creation. Our Father is the one that speaks, Jesus is the Word and the Spirit is associated with the effects of the words spoken. God invented language, whether it be in English, Samoan or any other language. And God is part of every conversation because he's our Creator, the giver of our language-ness - no matter what language we speak. Isn’t that amazing!
The Samoan language, like other languages from small Pacific nations, is under threat. If we lose the uniqueness of any language we will lose the gift from God to help share the Good News that brings transformation to indiviuals, families, communities and nations. And we'll miss out on what God wants to reveal to the world through the Samoan language and culture.
Tautua nei mo sou manuia a taeo – Serve now for a better tomorrow. To my beloved Samoan community I pray that we continue to embrace the Samoan language as God’s gift, using this to advance his Kingdom and to bring him glory. To serve for a better tomorrow means for us to make the Samoan language a gift to our children.
Fa’afetai tele lava le Atua mo le meaalofa o le Gagana Samoa ma isi gagana esese i le lalolagi (Thank you Lord for the Samoan language and other different languages around the world).
If you speak another language, what are some of the ways you utalise this gift in everyday life? Or have you been tempted to ‘bury the gift’ because of the dominance of English in New Zealand?
If you don’t speak another language and are willing to learn, why not find someone bilingual in your workplace, community or church and ask them to teach you some new words.
Join the discussion at the #NZCMS Facebook Group.