Weaving language with identity; the story of Samoan Secondary students. Letoga: A Precious Thing
Degree GrantorChristchurch College of Education
Degree NameMaster of Teaching and Learning
If you belong to the dominant culture of your society, it is relatively easy to build an identity and conform. You understand how things run, what is expected of you, and how to meet those expectations. You have freedom to decide whether or not you will fit in. But have you ever considered what it must be like to belong to a minority culture? I certainly didn't, even though the primary school I work in is multicultural. Sixteen years ago, when I arrived, I assumed that it was up to the Samoan students at our school to assimilate into the Anglo-Saxon education system I had grown up with, despite the fact that many of them had been born in Samoa. But something happened over the years. An almost instinctive awareness grew amongst the Samoan parent community about the importance of the maintenance of their children's first language and culture. As a result of much hard work, my school has a Samoan bilingual class, where students learn, and learn in, two languages. The goal of this research was to investigate the effectiveness of the bilingual class from the point of view of students who had left the class at least two years previously, and now attended secondary school. They shared insights into the life of the class, and what they believed were the long term effects for them. Most of what they shared about the class was very positive and affirming, and they attributed feelings of confidence and self esteem to the warmth and cultural nurturing of the class. The ability to speak fluently, and learn in, their first language promoted a sense of identity and self worth. They felt proud of their Samoan identify and equated their abilities in Samoan as crucial to that. This report, then, is about the journey from assimilation of a minority culture into the majority one, to the realization of the rights its members have to maintain their own identity, and the benefits that result.