Just before Alice Uale’s Grandfather passed away, she made a solemn promise to him that she was determined to keep. She assured him that she would speak the Tuvalu language to her seven New Zealand-raised children so their culture and traditions will survive.
Alice moved to New Zealand from Tuvalu in 1989 when she was eight years old. She says her family kept the culture alive in the home while adjusting to a new country. Her grandfather, Manoa Maona from the islands of Vaitupu, Nui, Niutao and Nikufelau, had the foresight to ensure the culture would be kept alive for generations. He asked Alice to maintain her language which she promised to continue to speak to her family and children when he passed in 2005.
“I wanted to respect my grandfather’s wishes. He knew that when you move away from your home, it’s easy to drift away from your culture. By making that promise to him I knew that me and my family will always be connected to our culture through our language.”
Alice is reminded of her grandfather’s wisdom this week during Tuvalu Language Week.
She works as a culture and programme coordinator at Fale Pasifika Te Tai Tokerau. Based in Whangarei, Fale Pasifika is a Pasifika Futures partner and provides healthcare for the Pacific community living in Northland.
Alice says there is a small Tuvaluan community in Whangarei and many people in the area know very little about her home country.
“I’m really proud to be Tuvaluan. Moving to Whangarei made me realise how blessed I am to be Pasifika. Tuvalu is a tiny place and many people ask me where on the map it is. I love it when this happens because it gives me the opportunity to tell people about Tuvalu and explain to them why it is such a special place.”
What Alice loves most about her language is that it’s very similar to other Pacific languages.
“It has the same vowels as other Pacific languages, so it allows me to pick up Samoan and te reo Māori easily. It shows how connected we are to other Pacific cultures.
My favourite Tuvaluan proverb is ‘Te galiga o fenua kote loto gatasi’. It means the beauty of our Island and community is striving in unity.”