Why learn your ancestral lingo?

Malo lava everyone!

It’s Louise here. Thank you for the phenomenal response to my free audio, “The Recovering Samoan”. I’ve been thinking about why I used the word, recovering, as in getting back to a normal state of something. Being a non-fluent speaker of Samoan and being able to say that without emotion, is a massive achievement. I’ve felt that through my life as a Samoan language learner, I’ve been made to feel ashamed (by other Samoans mostly) of where I am as a learner, as a daughter and as a Samoan person, which is quite s@#t. The truth is your normal state of language learning is one you personally set, not a particular level you achieve. Sure, it’s great to know you have a certificate from learning a language, but one needs your own afi, your own fire, to navigate and move through your journey.

How can you decide what this journey is? By writing down your own reasons why you want to learn Samoan. Not your parents, not your partner’s, not even your church. For you. When I hear other Pasefika talk about their parents not teaching them, I think, “Well, you’re still alive and presumably compos mentis. You can always learn anything if you want it enough”. So write your reasons down and look around you. There’s the internet, your aiga, uo Samoa (your Samoan friends), random strangers who you overhear, speaking Samoan – I’ve had my best interactions with this group, as you don’t know them and you are in the moment, of just speaking and listening to each other, even if the conversation is rather mundane and repetitive.

“Toaga” which means to strive or to be industrious, is a word used a lot of learning fa’aSamoa. So that is the word or rather, sentence of the day: Toaga i le fa’aSamoa. Wherever you are in the world, in the words of the awesome Vaisala Primary School in Savaii, #tauivi ia manumalo = keep striving till you win/achieve.

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