Samoa Schools To Renew Teaching Diacriticals In Writing

admin's picture

Linguistic markings abandoned in late 1960s

By Lagi Keresoma

APIA, Samoa (Talamua, Nov. 21, 2012) – Symbols that determine the meaning and pronunciation of Samoan words will be restored in the written language and the teaching of Samoan in the schools.

Ainslie Leapai of the Ministry of Education Language Division told Talamua this has been endorsed by Cabinet, not only to use both Samoan and English language in the education system, but for the Ministry to spearhead the restoration of symbols and signs in the written language.

Samoan symbols were well-taught in the pastor’s schools and at the primary level of government schools in the 1960s and 1970s.

However, the symbols were removed in the late 1960s by the Ministry of Education. The reasons were that the symbols were irrelevant to any user well-versed in the Samoan language who should know what the words and names mean without the symbols.

However, the media, such as radio, have been the main victims and had to offer alternatives to names and words that are ambiguous. For instance, without the symbols, the two and separate villages of Lotofaga and Lotofagā are hard to distinguish without the stress on the last letter "a."

Words such as ‘pau’ which can have several meanings such as ‘end,’ ‘skin,’ ‘tree bark,’ (car) ‘tyre’ and even ‘a persons name,’ takes time to figure out the exact meaning without the symbols.

The fast and modern changes in Samoan society overtime have younger Samoan generations communicating more in English and making it hard for them to learn their mother language without the symbols.

Ainslie said the symbols and signs determine the difference and the uniqueness of the Samoan language from other languages.

"The symbols emphasize the exact meaning of a word and thus the meaning of the whole sentence in which that word is used," Anslie explains.

She also said that the Ministry fully supports the Governments decision to restore the symbols and signs in the use and teaching of the Samoan language.

Several years ago, the Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi made this point clearly when he was the guest speaker at the graduation for the Samoan Indigenous University, Le Amosā o Savavau and delivered his total Samoan speech without the symbols which was nothing short of a comedy.

Ainslie could not comment on the reason why the symbols were first dropped from the education system but did confirm that their efforts restore the symbols into the education system has taken a while.

Rate this article: 
No votes yet

Add new comment