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Cook Islands Language Week / Te epetoma o te reo Māori Kuki Airani

This page might include information, links, and events that are specific to 2019. It will be updated as soon as 2020 information becomes available.

Hibiscus flower.

Kia orāna!  

The annual ‘Epetoma o te reo Māori Kūki ’Āirani: Cook Islands Language Week is being held from 4–10 August 2019. The theme for this year is "Taku rama, taau toi: ora te Reo" - "My Torch, Your Adze: The Language Lives."

Cook Islands Language Week is a chance for all Kiwis to celebrate and learn about the rich languages and culture of the Cook Islands.

Languages of the Cook Islands

There are three distinct Polynesian languages spoken in the Cook Islands.

  1. Cook Islands Māori is an Eastern Polynesian language with a number of dialects. This language belongs to the same language family as New Zealand Māori and the languages of Hawai‘i and Tahiti.
  2. Pukapuka is a Western Polynesian language, belonging to the same language family as the languages of Sāmoa, Tuvalu, and Tokelau.
  3. Palmerston Island has its own unique and distinctive mixture of Cook Islands Māori and English.

Cook Islands Māori has several distinct dialects. Speakers of one dialect can understand the others. The dialects are:

• Aitutaki
• Ātiu, Ma‘uke, and Miti‘āro (Ngāpūtoru)
• Mangaia
• Manihiki and Rakahanga
• Rarotonga
• Tongareva (Penrhyn).

The dialect of Rarotonga is the most widely used and standardised dialect, both in the Cook Islands and within Cook Islands communities in New Zealand. This page lists resources and ideas to support the learning of this particular dialect. You may be able to call on people in your community to learn other dialects or languages of the Cook Islands.

Information sourced from The Cook Islands Māori Language Guidelines.

Cook Islands Language Week and the national curriculum 

The Pasifika Education Plan emphasises the importance of connecting and responding to the identities, languages, and cultures of each Pasifika group in schools. Students' wellbeing and achievement is enhanced when their learning reflects and reinforces where they come from, what they value, and what they already know.

Cook Islands Language Week celebrates the identity, languages, and cultures of students from the Cook Islands and students whose families are from the Cook Islands; supporting this group of learners to engage and achieve success. The Cook Islands community are the second largest Pacific ethnic group in New Zealand (after the Samoan community) making up 20% of the Pacific population with 59.5% living in the Auckland region (Census 2013). 

Cook Islands Language Week supports the curriculum principles of cultural diversity and inclusion, and provides an opportunity for all students to:

  • explore the values of diversity and respect
  • make use of key competencies, especially using language, symbols, and texts and relating to others
  • achieve learning outcomes described in the learning languages and social sciences learning areas.

This special week helps all New Zealanders journey towards shared cultural understandings. Learning a new language gives us insight into new ways of thinking, and to different beliefs and cultural practices. Everyone who learns the languages of the Cook Islands helps to preserve them.

By learning an additional language and its related culture(s), students come to appreciate that languages and cultures are systems that are organised and used in particular ways to achieve meaning. Learning a new language extends students’ linguistic and cultural understanding and their ability to interact appropriately with other speakers ... Through such interaction, students acquire knowledge, skills, and attitudes that equip them for living in a world of diverse peoples, languages, and cultures.

The New Zealand Curriculum, p. 24.

Ministry of Education resources

Te Kaveinga o Te Reo Māori Kūki ‘Āirani: The Cook Islands Māori Language Guidelines
Te Kaveinga o Te Reo Māori Kūki ‘Āirani: The Cook Islands Māori Language Guidelines is designed to support the teaching and learning of Kūki ‘Airini as an additional language in New Zealand early childhood and school settings. It sets out the competencies that learners need in order to communicate effectively in te reo Māori Kūki ‘Āirani. Suggestions for the teaching and learning of Kūki ‘Airini in early childhood and school settings are included.

PDF icon. Cook Islands Māori Language Guidelines (PDF, 924 KB)

Learning Languages series – I-E-Ko-Ko! An Introduction to Cook Islands Māori
This multi-media resource supports the teaching and learning of Kūki ‘Airini as an additional language at years 7 to 10.

Pasifika dual language books – Cook Islands Māori
The Pasifika dual language resources are designed to support the early language and literacy learning of Pasifika new entrant students in English-medium classrooms. Teacher and parent support material accompanies these resources. Many of the dual language books are available as PDFs and all the books are available as MP3 audio files.

Cook Islands Māori storybooks
Six storybooks, each with teacher support materials, have been developed to support the Learning Languages series resource I–E–Ko–Ko!

In your book rooms ... 

Check out these titles from the instructional series to support your learning during Cook Islands Language Week: 

Tīvaevae by Teremoana Hodges
In this well-illustrated article, we learn about the origins, meanings, and construction of tīvaevae, the beautiful hand-sewn Cook Islands Māori bedspreads. 

A Quilt for Kiri by Don Long
This sensitive narrative tells of the death of Kiri’s grandmother far away in the Cook Islands. Grandma’s gift of a quilt to Kiri sparks special memories for Kiri and her dad. A Gift for Aunty Ngā is a sequel to this book.

Supporting resources

Cook Islands Language Week resource – Te Papa
Learn Cook Islands Māori words, phrases, and pronunciation, and explore aspects of Cook Islands Māori culture.

Facebook page
If you are a Facebook user there is a Cook Islands Language Week group that you can join to keep up to date with news, resources, and events.

Ministry for Pacific Peoples – Cook Islands Language Week 
This page has a downloadable poster and other helpful resources to support Cook Islands Language Week. 

Christchurch City Libraries - Cook Islands Māori language week page
This page offers recordings of simple phrases in Cook Islands Māori and links to supporting resources.

Celebrating Cook Islands Māori through trivial pursuits
This video shows how the Cook Islands community in Tokoroa came together to celebrate Cook Islands Māori language week in 2012.

Pasifika digital legends
These digital legends are based on traditional stories from the Pacific. They have been selected and retold, in English and Pasifika languages, by New Zealand students.

Niu FM – The beat of the Pacific
This radio station provides music, news, talkback, competitions, events, and stories in Kūki ‘Airini and other Pasifika languages.

Poly songbook
Check out some of the favourite songs of the Pacific.

Cook Islands song kit
This kit comes with a song book and a CD. It can be ordered from Down the Back of the Chair, the Ministry of Education's catalogue of teaching and learning resources for schools.

Have you seen?

Inclusive Education Guides for Schools – Supporting Pasifika students
This guide focuses on inclusive teaching and learning strategies that can be used in the classroom to create a more effective learning environment for all Pasifika students.

Going back to the island
In this blog, Teanau Tuiono reflects on his Cook Islands heritage and his connections with his tīpuna. Teanau urges New Zealand educators to value the diversity, languages, customs, and individuality of their Pasifika students. He writes that teachers need to move beyond the correct pronunciation of students' names and inquire more deeply into best cultural, inclusive practice. 

Updated on: 16 Jul 2019