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Tonga Language Week / Uike Kātoanga’i ‘o e Lea Faka-Tonga

Tongan flag.

Mālō e lelei!

Tonga Language Week / Uike Kātoanga’i ‘o e Lea Faka-Tonga is being held from Sunday 3 September to Saturday 9 September 2023.

About Tonga Language Week

Yellow bell flower.

At the 2018 New Zealand census, 82 389 people identified as being part of the Tongan ethnic group, an increase of 22 056 people from the 2013 census.

Currently, there are more Tongan people born in New Zealand than there are in Tonga, giving lea faka-Tonga (the Tonga language) and anga faka-Tonga (Tonga culture) a special place here in Aotearoa.

Tonga Language Week / Uike Kātoanga’i ‘o e lea faka-Tonga gives students of all ethnicities the chance to learn some basic lea faka-Tonga, and gives students who speak lea faka-Tonga the chance to be experts in the classroom.

Curriculum connections

NZC Curriculum icon.

Tonga Language Week / Uike Kātoanga’i ‘o e lea faka-Tonga supports the curriculum principles of cultural diversity and inclusion, and provides an opportunity for students to explore the values of diversity, community, and respect. By learning a new language students can achieve learning outcomes described in the learning languages area and make use of key competencies, especially using language, symbols, and texts, and relating to others.

How can you get involved?

Some ideas for classroom programmes or school-wide activities: 

Mosaic art from Tonga.

Learn a phrase a day
Introduce a new phrase each day during Tonga Language Week. Encourage your students to share their language learning with their whānau. This video and the Omniglot website offer some common Tongan phrases, suitable for classroom use. You can download resources from the Ministry for Pacific Peoples website to support the learning of lea faka Tonga. 

Tongan language games
Include these online language games in your reading rotation or English lesson. Students can build their vocabulary knowledge as they match Tongan words to images. 

Engage your community
Find out if you have anyone who speaks Tongan in your school community and ask if they can share their expertise with your school during Tonga Language Week. With the help of your Tongan community, students could create a resource for teachers to use across the school. A grandparent or parent could come and read to children in the classroom or in the library at lunchtime. You could use books from the dual language series or check your resource room for Lea Faka-Tonga titles in the Tupu series.

Classroom discussions
Use the following questions as discussion starters with your class – "Why is it important for all New Zealanders to celebrate and learn lea faka-Tonga?" "What benefits will this bring to New Zealanders of Tongan descent?"

Investigate Tongan art 
Explore the arts from Tonga, from Tapa cloth and traditional dance to contemporary printmaking, painting, music, and sculpture. Discuss how the art of Tonga can enrich Aotearoa. This story from the Coconet website and this journal article describe the ancient art of ngatu (tapa cloth).  

Explore Project 83: Small Things Matter
Project 83 was a co-collecting project developed by the Year 13 Tongan language class of Sir Edmund Hillary Collegiate in 2017. These students collected and described objects that represent their lives as Tongan students. Their stories are shared through the Te Papa blog.

Integrate Tongan numbers into mathematics
Use the Tongan number system to teach place value. All you have to do is learn the numbers 0-10 then you can count from 1-99.

Hold a special assembly
Ask students who identify as Tongan to run a special assembly to celebrate Tonga Language Week. They could include the New Zealand National Anthem in lea faka-Tonga and teach Tongan greetings and phrases.   

Get involved in a community event
There are a range of events taking place across New Zealand to promote the importance of Tongan language and culture. These include church, school, and community events, library sessions, heritage art displays, launches, radio dialogue, and workplace gatherings. Please contact the regional offices of the Ministry for Pacific Peoples if you would like a copy of the national calendar of events.

Instructional series

Another great way to get your students involved in Tonga Language Week is to incorporate it into your reading and writing programme. The Instructional Series offers a range of texts with a lea faka-Tonga theme: 

Ngatu: Keeping the Tradition Alive, School Journal, Level 2, June 2018
Megan and Lita are cousins who belong to the Tongan community in Wellington. This article describes how every week they come together with their mothers, grandmother, and other women and girls to learn about Tongan culture and how to make ngatu (tapa cloth). It explains the process of making ngatu and the significance of the cloth, and it demonstrates how such traditions are passed down through the generations.

The Sons of Ma'fu, School Journal, Level 2, October 2015
A traditional story from Tonga, retold by Feana Tu‘akoi. Illustrations by Fraser WilliamsonTwo brothers with a reputation for trouble try to redeem themselves by carrying out some perilous tasks. Despite their best efforts, the brothers fail to impress the other villagers. Instead, they are banished to live in the heavens, where they can still be seen. 

The Mysterious Stones of Tonga, School Journal, Level 2, August 2017
In this article, Dr ‘Ana Maui Taufe‘ulungaki describes and discusses an unusual stone monument, Ha‘amonga ‘a Maui (the Burden of Maui), which stands near the village of Niutōua in Tonga. The monument is special because there are very few stone structures to be found anywhere in the Pacific.

Useful resources

Tonga Language Week education resource (PDF 1.6 MB)
The Ministry for Pacific Peoples has worked in partnership with Te Papa Tongarewa to develop a free education resource that will help with learning lea faka-Tonga. 

Tongan language resources
These teaching and learning resources are designed to support the teaching and learning of lea faka-Tonga in New Zealand schools. They are aimed at all levels.

Pasifika dual language books – Lea Faka-Tonga
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.

Senior secondary guides – Tongan
This guide has been designed to help secondary teachers create quality programmes for teaching and learning Tongan.

Ministry for Pacific Peoples – Pacific Language Weeks
This website offers free downloadable resources to support teaching and learning during Tonga Language Week. 

Pasifika Education Community
This TKI site has resources, curriculum links, and guidelines for teachers working alongside Pasifika communities.

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.

Tapasa (online PDF)
Tapasā is a framework and tool designed to build the cultural competencies of teachers and leaders, helping them engage with Pacific learners and their parents, families, and communities to make the biggest difference in a child’s educational success.

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Tongan language, culture, and identity
Ma’ata Fusitu’a is a teacher of the Tongan language at Sir Edmund Hillary Collegiate in South Auckland. In this blog Ma’ata explains some important aspects of Tongan family life and culture and offers some suggestions on how we can support Tongan language and culture in our schools and classrooms.

Updated on: 01 May 2020