The Tongan language is a national treasure

posted: 10:00 am - 30th August 2018
John Pulu2

Residing in Ōtāhuhu,aka Little Tonga, John Pulu (pictured) and his family mostly communicate using the Tongan language at home. 

The Pacific Broadcaster feels this is the best way for Tongan people living in New Zealand to preserve their traditional language due to Aotearoa being so diverse and English used most commonly elsewhere. 

John, a reporter and presenter on Television New Zealand’s (TVNZ) flagship Pacific news show Tagata Pasifika, and radio announcer on the Tongan show Le’o e ‘otufelenite (Voice of the friendly islands) on radio 531PI, says he values the Tongan language because it’s a national treasure that is a gift from God. 

“This is what makes us different to other ethnic groups here in Aotearoa,” John says. 

“The Tongan language is rich and is linked to some of our indigenous values, unique to Tongans – including the four pillars of what makes us Tongan –respect; keeping good relationships; loyalty; and the fourth pillar is humility.” 

John is from Holopeka, Ha’apai and Kolomotu’a, Tongatapu with ties to Lau in Fiji. 

He is the youngest in his family, with two older brothers and a sister. 

“My family migrated to South Auckland in the late 90s because my father (who was a carpenter) came here to help build a church for the Tongan community in Māngere,” John shares. 

He attended primary school in Tonga at the Government Primary School Longolongo, Kolomotu’a and Tonga Side School and after moving to New Zealand, completed his education at Fairburn School, Ōtāhuhu Intermediate and Ōtāhuhu College. 

Following secondary school, fate handed John the opportunity to do some work experience at TVNZ on Tagata Pasifika which is where he caught the bug for the broadcast industry.

“There was a lack of positive Pacific representation in the media and I wanted to change that. 

“I studied at AUT majoring in Television, and I returned to TVNZ and have worked on Tagata Pasifika ever since.” 

As the population of Pacific people in Aotearoa continues to grow, we must not leave or neglect our Pacific roots, John says. 

“If we don’t look after it we will lose it. 

“I encourage our people to embrace being Pacific because we bring that and enrich the new land that we now call home.” 

This year’s Tongan Language Week runs from September 2 until September 8, and it is the perfect opportunity to embrace the Tongan language and practice using it in everyday situations.

Supported by the Ministry for Pacific Peoples (MPP), this year’s Tongan Language Week theme is Fakakoloa ‘o Aotearoa ‘aki ‘a e ‘Ofa Fonua — Enrich Aotearoa with the love of duty and service to country, community and people.

For a calendar of events happening around New Zealand, visit HERE.