GIVE IT A GO:

TALOFA

(Hello): Tah-law-far

ALOFA (Love/kindness): Uh-law-far

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ATA MAI: (Give me a smile): Uh-tah mah-y

TŌFA: (Goodbye): Tore-far

Kindness is the resounding theme for this year's Samoan Language Week, which celebrates the third most spoken language in New Zealand.

The first of the Pasifika language weeks of the year runs until Saturday and highlights the theme: Alofa atu nei, alofa mai taeao - Kindness given, kindness gained.

Those familiar with the word "alofa'' will recognise it as the Samoan word for love and, like many languages across the Pacific, it is closely associated with other words with the same meaning, such as "aloha'' and "aroha''.

Several events and activities have been organised at schools, public libraries and community hubs around the country.

Minister for Pacific Peoples Aupito William Sio said the theme was based on the practice of reciprocity - offering love, kindness and respect to others in the way others should do for you.

Sio, a Samoan chief, acknowledged the importance of embracing language.

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"Our language is key to our Samoan identity and the protection and preservation of our values and traditions.

"It is vital our language continues to be used by New Zealand-born Samoans and that it is passed onto the next generation.''

The emphasis on gagana Samoa (the Samoan language) this week coincides with the country's Independence Day on Friday, celebrating 56 years since the island nation became independent on January 1, 1962.

A young man outside a building in Apia, Samoa, ahead of the historic All Blacks vs Manu Samoa match in 2015. Photo / Dean Purcell
A young man outside a building in Apia, Samoa, ahead of the historic All Blacks vs Manu Samoa match in 2015. Photo / Dean Purcell

The holiday is marked in June instead of January.

Samoans make up the largest Pasifika ethnic group in New Zealand.

Figures from the 2013 Census showed there were 144,138 people of Samoan descent living in New Zealand; making up 48.7 per cent of the country's Pacific population.

Statistics that year showed Samoan was the third most commonly spoken language in New Zealand, with 86,403 people indicating they were Samoan speakers.

It is the second most spoken language in Aukilani - Auckland - with more than 51,300 people able to hold a conversation in Samoan.

Te reo Māori was the third most spoken language in the country, after English, and Hindi replaced French as the fourth most common language that year. Northern Chinese (including Mandarin) and French followed.

The initiative for a Samoan Language Week was started by The Association for the Maintenance and Teaching of the Samoan Language in Aotearoa.

The group's full name, in Samoan, is the: Fa'alāpotopotoga mo le A'oa'oina o le Gagana Samoa i Aotearoa - often referred to as FAGASA.

Sio acknowledged there had been a slight drop in the number of people who can speak Samoan over the last few years.

The latest Census indicated 60 per cent of Samoans could speak the mother-tongue. In 2006, that figure was 63 per cent.

"It indicates we have to remain active in promoting the language if it is to flourish,'' he said.

"That's what the language week is all about - heightening awareness and building commitment in the Samoan community and wider New Zealand.''

For Samoan Language Week events, visit: Ministry for Pacific Peoples.