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Language researcher praises NUS samoan language initiatives

 Caption: Pacific Language Publication should be encouraged – Dr. Cresantia Frances Koya Vaka’uta, Associate Dean Research & Internationalization, Faculty of Arts Law & Education, The University of the South Pacific, Suva Fiji Islands.  [NUS Campus News Team]

An academic with over 20 years of engagement in the arts, culture and education conversation has applauded the National University of Samoa’s own initiatives that have contributed to safeguarding the Samoan language.

In her keynote address on the second day of the Second Pacific Islands University Research Network (PIURN) conference, University of the South Pacific’s (USP) Dr. Cresantia FrancesKoya Vaka’uta acknowledged examples of how a Pacific university can contribute to preserving Pacific languages.

These include the Measina Conference, Samoan studies programme and the publication in Samoan language facilitated by the Centre for Samoan Studies. “They are deeply tied to our cultural heritage and identity with links to biodiversity knowledge,” Dr. Vaka’uta said. 

“We know our ecology through our language and the loss of language inevitably means loss of related knowledge. “We know that linguistic human rights are part of our cultural rights and that language plays an important part of education, policy and practice,” she said.

According to Dr. Vaka’uta, local mother tongues across the Pacific would be the best start for young people. “If we really want our children to fulfill their full educational and economical potential, their home languages should be supported,” she said.

“What is common practice in the region is called subtractive bilingualism, where one language is replaced by another,” Dr. Vaka’uta added. “The research suggests that this can lead to loss of self-confidence and lower achievement.” In light of many language challenges in the region, she has reflected on ways that PIURN could assist.

“We should encourage focused research and funding for culture, the arts and languages.  One of the current University of the South Pacific research cluster theme is Pacific cultures and societies offering research funding,” she said.