Our gagana: ‘the essence of being Sāmoan’.

I miss being immersed in our gagana Sāmoa, our Sāmoan language.

The questions, being told off (or hearing others being told off), even the entertaining and highly animated faikakala reports, which always seemed to take on a life of its own.

We grow up and fly from the nest to all the corners of the world, embarking on new and exciting adventures in new lands and cultures, only to miss and crave for what we’ve had all along.

Proving that you really don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.

This is why I cherish moments with my elders whose Sāmoan spirit rolls off their tongue, proudly expressing who they are and what they are. Holding our cultural knowledge in their stories that they could only tell with their gagana experience and wisdom.

Our gagana is so precious.

Now understanding it’s beauty and value, I realise that learning our gagana is far more than just remembering words. It’s reading the letters that form the sounds, it’s hearing it in songs, it’s seeing it being modelled and most importantly, breathing life into it by putting it into action.

It can be overwhelming.

To not only learn it for yourself, but also in trying to pass it on to your tamaiti. The pressure, shame and guilt try to creep in. Some days it wins, but not today.

Today my sons greet me with Tālofa. They are asking ‘ou te fia ai …’ They make me laugh as they argue about who is laititi and who is lapo’a. They are remembering to say fa’afetai lava and fa’amolemole. They are showing me it is working. I am doing good and it will be okay.

A’oa’o. Taumafai. Repeat.

And never lose sight of why you love and want to be a speaker of our gagana, remember –
“Learn to speak Sāmoan
not so you may sound Sāmoan
but so you may
feel the essence of being Sāmoan”.
(Identity Poem by Lemalu Samau Tate Simi)

Author: Dahlia Malaeulu

dah·li·a (dah-lee-ya) / noun: a flower that is widely cultivated for its impact and coloured personality / adj: abundant, bright, bold, fresh, ready-to-bloom / human form: daughter, mother, wife, educator, problem solver, creative, teine Sāmoa / working on: creating more brown spaces in the world / currently: moving in the write direction.

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