Niuean language teaching goes digital

Children and teachers from Niue bilingual unit at Favona School, Auckland, perform at the launch of the app Fakaako e Vagahau Niue. Photo: RNZ/ Lydia Lewis

An app teaching the Niuean language was launched in Auckland on Saturday 9 July.

The app, Fakaako e Vagahau Niue, translates common words, the Niuean alphabet, everyday conversations, numbers and proverbs.

Mele Nemaia, chairperson of Vagahau Niue Trust, said it supports learning for the Niuean diaspora, many of whom cannot speak the language.

“We know there is a need for something like this where our young people can actually have it in the palm of their hand and the resources there. No only that, but also we are just limiting it ourselves in New Zealand, but it can be accessed by many Niuean people living overseas, “she said.

“Learning how to do an introduction of themselves. Ko hai au…who am I…but it’s in Vagahau Niue. There is also translations for everything that is on that app – the days of the week, months of the year, different colours, the alphabet and there are songs to accompany, or visuals to accompany.”

Niuean has been listed by UNESCO as a critically endangered language.

Members of the Niuan community gathered to support the launch of the app.

Members of the Niuan community gathered to support the launch of the app. Photo: RNZ/ Lydia Lewis

“The survival of the Niue language is literally at your fingertips”

Students from the two newly established bilingual units at Favona Primary School in Auckland performed at the event on Saturday.

It was an emotional morning for some of their teachers, who had poured their hearts into the app, spending hours on their weekends to make it happen, along with many other Niue community members.

The app has been described as a taonga by its designer Kiwa Digital.

Kiwa Kaiwhakahaere Matua chief executive Steven Renata (Ngāpuhi), said his team had now built about 150 of the apps, including many for Pacific languages.

But the Niue one was by far the most comprehensive, and was one of the most beautiful, he said.

“The survival of the Niue language is literally at your fingertips.”

The app was funded by New Zealand’s Ministry of Education. And those at the event thanked the Niue government for giving them its blessing for the initiative.

NZ Ministry of Education senior lead advisor for Pacific education Hana Tusa spoke at the launch, and said the funding came from the Pacific Innovation Fund.

Former Niue Premier Young Vivian prayed for the app.

He said it marks the start of a fire that he hopes will continue to spread: “I am proud of the next generation”.

Former Niue premier Young Vivian says he is “proud” of the next generation of Vagahau Niue speakers, at the app launch.

Former Niue premier Young Vivian said the app is a tool to encourage the next generation of Vagahau Niue speakers. Photo: RNZ/ Lydia Lewis

Source: RNZ