Fanaura, one of our Cook Island Maori translators, shares what her mother tongue means to her and why she works as a translator. Here’s the second part of her account.

From that day when my mother instructed me never to speak but Maori when we were together, as well as with family members and friends whenever I met them, what she said has remained with me, that my language determines who I am, and it identifies me from my friends who spoke a different language.  I was also able, and still do so today, to express Picture of a carved wood figure from the Cook Islandsmyself for who I am through the many songs, hymns, chants, legends, quotations of my Maori heritage, and so on and so forth.

Today, while the older generation of Cook Island Maori people are holding fast to our mother tongue, our first and most important means of identity, very sadly, the younger generations are lacking in the desire to be of the same calibre.  In particular are those who are married to other ethnic group members and therefore find it easier to use English to communicate more easily within their family circle.  This includes my own two sons who have Papa’a (English) wives.

As for the many publications which I have translated for the Department of Internal Affairs, I was determined to make sure that what I translate will be understood clearly and easily by our people, so they are not left confused because of the use of a wrong word, or incorrect spelling, or a badly constructed sentence.  I do translation work and will continue to do so, for the joy of knowing that I can do it to the best of my ability for the sake of our people, rather than for the amount that I am paid for doing it.  Money comes and goes, but one’s language is only kept within one’s life, when you hold on to it with pride and joy.

We celebrated our “Epetoma o te Reo Maori Kuki Airanai” in Tokoroa by having a variety of activities including:

  • a special Cook Island Maori church service held at 9am on Sunday 3 August, to declare the “Epetoma” opened for our church, the St. Luke’s Pacific Islands Presbyterian parish, before the usual main combined church service at 11am;
  • Cook Island Maori language lessons taught at Tokoroa High School by one of the Cook Island Maori teachers who teaches at Tokoroa High;
  • public performances by the two secondary schools of Tokoroa, Forest View High School and Tokoroa High at their schools as well as by our two Cook Islands Maori ECE Centres or “Punanga o te Reo Maori Kuki Airani” (Fortress of our Reo Maori Kuki Airani);
  • displays and sale of Cook Island Maori arts and craft and umu cooked food at the St. Luke’s Presbyterian Church premises;
  • a special closing Cook Island Maori service on Sunday 10 August with a special feast following the service.

There were other celebration programmes as well conducted by the much older generation of our people, which were to be expected, but the ones done by the young ones were the ones I was taken up with as one of the means of helping them to hold on to what is totally and completely theirs.

I will continue to do all I can to help make sure that my Maori language which tells the rest of the world who I am will remain for generations to come, despite the very drastic forecast that many languages are doomed to be lost in the future.

To be continued…

Fanaura