The Spirit of Service is strong among Pacific public servants where many regularly dedicate time to their communities beyond their paid work commitments. A project which has seen that dedication in action was the recent launch of the Tongan Language App, TAKAUA, at New Zealand’s Parliament.
Wellington Tongan community leader, and Pacific Country Lead for Polynesia at the Public Service Fale, Tae Tu’inukuafe led the development of TAKAUA, which provides a mobile-phone-based app assistant for navigating both the Tongan language and culture, on behalf of the Wellington Tongan Leaders Council.
Tae says it was an honour to work with so many people and organisations dedicated to seeing the vision become reality. She says it helps people master the Tongan alphabet, time, days months, numbers, phrases, proverbs, and hymns along with translation, vocabulary, and grammar.
Figures from New Zealand’s 2018 census showed that only 12 percent of Tongans under 15 spoke the language in Aotearoa, a decline of 9 percent since 2006. TAKAUA was conceived to help arrest that fall.
New Zealand’s Ministry of Education provided key funding for the project and worked closely with the council while indigenous media specialist Kiwa Digital were the app developer and Te Kawa Mataaho | Public Service Commission’s own Raman Singh and wife Ishu provided design and technical support for the accompanying website, said Tae.
Tonga’s High Commissioner to Australia, Princess Angelika Lātūfuipeka Tuku’aho, beamed in from Canberra to represent the Tonga Government and Royal Family, and to officially launch the TAKAUA app and the Wellington Tongan Leaders Council website. The princess congratulated everyone involved for their significant contribution to preserving Tonga’s culture and language.
“Amazingly, the TAKAUA app will benefit learners to have easy access at no cost, learning at their own pace and time, learning at their own comfort from anywhere, and to enjoy a learning experience that is stimulating and amusing.”
The Public Service Fale’s Deputy Commissioner Tania Ott, was one of the first at the launch venue to download the app to her phone and remarked on its significance as a way of connecting with the tech savvy youth of the diaspora.
“I love the ease of use and its simple and engaging interface that immerses you in the cultural context of the language.”
Meanwhile, host to the Parliamentary launch, Tonga born Member of Parliament Anahila Kanongata’a-Suisuiki, said TAKAUA is like a Tongan friend in your pocket or bag.
“You know, we all have a smartphone these days and it gives you someone to check that your Tongan is correct. When your parents are busy or your family is busy, you can refer to the app. Well done to the Council, it was a lot of work by a lot of people.
“And best of all, it’s a growing app. It will be added to. It’s alive.”
Parliament’s Beehive Banquet Hall was also alive, but with the harmonies of Tongan hyms rejoicing the launch of the app and all who helped get it over the line.
Hana Tusa, Lead Advisor at the Ministry of Education, said the app’s development was made possible through the Pacific Education Innovation Fund and the Bilingual Immersion Resource Fund.
“Funding was to ensure we supported learners to sustain and maintain Lea Faka-Tonga, the Tongan language,” said Hana.
Kitiona Tauira from Pasifika Futures, a Whanau Ora Pacific health provider which has worked with the Council for nearly three years supporting Tongan families, also offered congratulations.
“The creativity and vision they’ve shown in developing this app will benefit not only families here in Wellington but Tongans all over the world who want to reconnect with their language and culture. I’m really honoured to be here representing my organisation.”
The launch of TAKAUA came at the end of Aotearoa New Zealand’s Uike Katoanga’i ‘o e lea faka-Tonga – Tonga Language Week in September. This year’s theme was Ke Tu'uloa 'a e lea faka-Tonga 'i Aotearoa, which means Sustaining the Tongan Language in Aotearoa.