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Aimed at preventing loss of Tongan language

NUKUALOFA, Tonga (Tonga Broadcasting Commission, July 9, 2008) – Work on the first Tongan dictionary with Tongan word meanings explained in the Tongan language is currently being completed.

This work is being led by Dr. Melenaite Taumoefolau who is a lecturer at the University of Auckland on Tongan language and Pacific Studies.

The current Tongan dictionary has Tongan word meanings explained in the English language and Dr. Taumoefolau said that in 2005 they began working with government school teachers in familiarising them with the Tongan words and meanings in preparation for the compilation of this full-Tongan dictionary, a vision borne from one of Tonga’s very own education experts.

The idea of the Tongan dictionary was first mooted by one of the longest serving officers in Tonga's ministry of education, Dr. 'Ana Taufe'ulungaki. Dr. Taumoefoelau said while Dr. 'Ana was undertaking further studies overseas she thought of the idea of compiling a Tongan-only dictionary and got in touch with someone to start work on the dictionary and then she returned and joined the working group as well.

Dr. 'Ana's vision was aimed at keeping the meanings of Tongan words intact and so work on the Tongan dictionary began.

Dr. Taumoefolau said the idea also came about due to the fact that indigenous languages are being lost all over the world including even some pacific words and original meanings in both Melanesian and Polynesian cultures like the Maori and the Hawaiian languages.

She said some of the younger generation islanders were also losing touch with their languages and she believes that globalisation has been a contributing factor in this respect, especially with pacific peoples residing overseas.

Dr. Taumoefolau said this was mainly due to people not using their language as often as they should as most things were carried out using the English language.

Tonga Broadcasting Commission:

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