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  • Ashleigh Putt-Fallows

Pacific Nations and Languages: Republic of Kiribati (​​Tungaru)

Welcome back to our very special project! This year at Salient we decided we wanted to celebrate our Pasifika language weeks, and not just the official ones. The uni community we are a part of is diverse and, while the New Zealand government may not officially recognise all our Pacific whanau, we want to celebrate as many as possible. 

Aotearoa’s official Wikin te Taetae ni Kiribati | Kiribati Language Week runs from the 7-13th of July 2024. The theme this year is: ‘Eutakirakean ma kabwaekekean ara taetae ni Kiribati ma kateira ao rabakaura, bon maurin ao tokabetin te I-Kiribati | Thriving and flourishing our Kiribati language, culture, and knowledge build I-Kiribati resilience and prosperity’. Make sure to keep an eye out for events this week and celebrate by learning some taetae ni Kiribati (Gilbertese).

Republic of Kiribati (​​Tungaru)

Kiribati (pronounced Kiribas) is located roughly halfway between Hawai’i and Australia. It sits on both the equator and 180th meridian, making it the only country in the world to sit in all four hemispheres. With 33 islands, the majority of which are atolls, the country has a population of over 116,000 people—over half of which live on Tarawa atoll. Most inhabitants of Kiribati are indigenous I-Kiribati (or Gilbertese peoples) as well as a small population of Tuvaluan and other ethnicities. Kiribati gained independence in 1979, largely from Britain but also the United States, who had made claims for two islands. The name Kiribati was chosen for the state, but the indigenous gilbertese or taetae ni Kiribati name for the islands is Tungaru. Kiribati, as is the case with many Pacific nations, is one of the world’s highest risk countries in the face of climate change, particularly the effects of sea level rise and risk of storm surges. Although we know this space has been made in Salient for learning the basics, acknowledgement and awareness, it would be wrong of us, as members of the whānau of Polynesia, to not advocate for this nation's preservation. For language, for culture and for their home. 

Kiribati’s official language is English, but most residents also speak taetae ni Kiribati (Gilbertese). 

Key Phrases

Te Mauri, te Raoi ao te Tabomoa - Health, Peace, and Prosperity (the motto of Kiribati)

E uara matiuum? - How was your sleep?)

Tekeraoi! - Good luck!

Tekeraoi n am bong ni bung! - Birthday greetings

Tekeraoi am bong! - Have a nice day

Ko na mauri - Hello (singular)

Kam na mauri - Hello (plural)

Tai karaba te rabakau - Don't hide your knowledge

The phrases and words above were found in dictionaries, articles and videos, mostly created for the purpose of preserving language and helping visitors who visit to communicate. The last phrase is the favorite phrase of I-Kiribati master weaver Louisa Humphry. 

It’s important to recognise that all cultures and languages are incredibly diverse. There are different dialects within languages, unrecognized languages and peoples. With Polynesia being so spread out, across large and small islands and villages, there is an unimaginable amount of culture that simply can’t be fully appreciated with just words. We encourage everyone to be respectful, open minded and always keep learning <3

Māuruuru roa & Ngā Mihi, 

Mauatua Fa'ara-Reynolds (she/they)

Ashleigh Putt-Fallows (she/her/ia)


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