FIJI LANGUAGE WEEK: “I am one with the language”

Terisa Tagicakibau is a proud Fijian but one of her biggest regrets early in life was to grow up in Fiji and not be able to speak the language because it was discouraged at home and at school.

Today, there are no regrets as Terisa is fluent in Fijian and is determined to ensure history does not repeat itself by immersing her seven children and nine grandchildren in the Fijian culture where they are strongly encouraged to speak the language with pride.

“My mum is Tongan, and my father is Fijian. Growing up in Fiji, our parents had this thinking that it was the English language that would get you far in life, so speaking Fijian was not encouraged at all, either at home or at school.

As an adult I understand how critical it is to celebrate the language, especially now that I am a mother and grandmother. You realise how important it is to pass on our traditions. Language is the key to our identity. You immerse your children in the language to influence them so they can go far in life.”

Terisa moved to New Zealand in 1985 as a 16-year-old to finish high school. She met her husband Lorima, who is from Fiji and speaks the language, and they married in 1987. Terisa become fluent in Fijian after many years of conversing with her husband in her native language.

“I love our language because it is rich and very deep. It connects you to other people because you are one with the language.” 

Terisa works as a health navigator at Etu Pasifika in Christchurch, which is the largest health provider for Pacific families in Canterbury. This week is Fijian Language Week and Terisa is leading many events that promotes and celebrates her language.

“This is a great time to reflect on our culture and remind our young ones growing up in New Zealand how important our language is to our Fijian identity and encourage them to find their place as Fijian New Zealanders”.

Terisa’s favourite Fijian Proverb is ‘E dua ga na siga ni cola qele,’ meaning, ‘You should always focus on the present and not procrastinate’.


Date: Thursday 8 October 2020