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Fostering the Growth of Budding Community Initiatives:
The Role of Linguists in Tokelauan Maintenance in Hawai‘i1

Yuko Otsuka and Andrew Wong
University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa


This paper discusses our involvement in the language revitalization project initiated by the Tokelauan community in Central O‘ahu, Hawai‘i. Nearly 1,000 people of Tokelauan descent live in Hawai‘i. Several elders have observed that a language shift from Tokelauan (Polynesian) to English and/or Hawai‘i Creole English is taking place in the community. Our involvement in the project illustrates several fundamental issues about language revitalization: (1) the need for collaboration not only between linguists and community members, but also among linguists with different areas of expertise, (2) the significance of balancing the needs of the community with those of researchers, (3) the importance of publicizing our research, and (4) the question of who is responsible for protecting the language right of immigrant populations.

1. INTRODUCTION. This paper discusses our involvement in the language revitalization project initiated by the Tokelauan community in Central O‘ahu, Hawai‘i. We first provide some background information about the Tokelauan (Polynesian) language, the community, and its efforts toward language maintenance. We then describe how we became involved in the project, what we tried to achieve, and what we plan to accomplish in the future. Finally, we discuss several valuable lessons we learned through our involvement in the project regarding language maintenance in immigrant communities. 

1.1 THE TOKELAUAN LANGUAGE. Tokelauan is a Polynesian language closely related to Samoan. Together with English, it is an official language of Tokelau, an island territory of New Zealand, with approximately 1,400 speakers (Gordon 2005). The total number of speakers of Tokelauan is estimated to be approximately 4,000, including those living in American Sāmoa, New Zealand, and the United States. The first missionaries came to Tokelau from Sāmoa. Noting the resemblance of the language spoken on the islands to Samoan, they decided to use the Samoan Bible instead of translating it into Tokelauan. Thus, Tokelauans read the Samoan Bible till this day.2 In addition, Samoan was the medium of instruction until mid 1980s, as the missionaries were the provider of formal education on the islands. Due to its association with the churches and schools, the Samoan language enjoyed high prestige in Tokelau for a long time (Hooper and Huntsman 1992). Today, however, the medium of instruction is Tokelauan, and it is also taught as a subject in school.

Like many other Polynesian peoples, more Tokelauans live outside their homeland than in it. The vast majority of Tokelauans reside in New Zealand. According to the 2001 census, 6,200 Tokelauan people live in New Zealand. That is four times larger than the population in the homeland. Sixty-six percent of them were born in New Zealand. In 2001, only 44 percent of those living in New Zealand were reported to be able to hold an everyday conversation in Tokelauan, down from 53 percent in 1996 (Statistics New Zealand 2005). These figures suggest that language maintenance outside Tokelau is crucial to ensuring the future of the Tokelauan language. 

1.2 THE TOKELAUAN COMMUNITY IN CENTRAL O‘AHU, HAWAI‘I. Tokelauans in Hawai‘i come from Olohega (also known as Swains Island), the southernmost atoll of the Tokelau island group, which lie three hundred miles north of Sāmoa. Geographically, the Tokelau group consists of four atolls: Atafu, Fakaofo, Nukunonu, and Olohega. Politically, however, only the first three belong to Tokelau, an island territory of New Zealand. These islands became a British protectorate in 1889 and were transferred to New Zealand administration in 1925. Olohega followed a separate course of history. In 1856, an American, Eli Jennings, came to Olohega with his Samoan wife and turned it into his private copra plantation. In 1925, Olohega was annexed to the United States and was placed under the jurisdiction of American Sāmoa. 

Jennings’s son imposed forced labor on all residents of Olohega. In 1953, the residents of Olohega went on strike in protest to the violations of civil and labor rights. They drew up a petition and submitted to the American Sāmoa attorney general. In response, the acting Governor ordered a state-sponsored eviction of over half the population of Olohega. Many families ended up as refugees in Pagopago, American Sāmoa. Living there was not easy for Tokelauans. Even though they were American nationals by virtue of the annexation, Samoan law precluded them from owning land or businesses. The hardship of life in Sāmoa turned their eyes to the United States (Ickes 1999, 2002). In the 1950s, a student from Olohega, who was on scholarship at the Lā‘ie Community College (today’s Brigham Young University Hawai‘i), saw the opportunities in the pineapple plantations in Central O‘ahu, Hawai‘i. He sent for his brothers and they brought their families to live in the plantation labor camps provided by Del Monte (Ickes 1999, 2002). 

According to the U.S. 2000 census, 574 people were reported to be of Tokelauan descent (Grieco 2001). Betty Ickes (pers. comm., February 2007), however, estimates that nearly 1,000 people of Tokelauan descent currently live in Hawai‘i, based on anecdotal evidence gathered through personal interviews. With specific reference to the community in Wahiawā, Central O‘ahu, its population is estimated to be 500 or more. Accurate figures are not available as to the size or the linguistic profile of this ethnic group. 

Today, Tokelauans in Hawai‘i have blended well into the multicultural host environment, which is made up of people from Hawai‘i, the mainland U.S., and other parts of Asia and the Pacific. As is the case with many other immigrant groups in Hawai‘i, the rate of interracial marriage is very high among the second generation.3 While they still maintain a sense of ethnic unity through extended kin ties and traditions that are unique to Tokelau, such as hiki (collective gift from the relatives to the family of a departed loved one), other cultural institutions and practices that are essential to the Tokelau way of life, such as Toeaina (elder council), fatupaepae (‘distributor’, usually the eldest female sibling, who makes decisions on the equitable distribution of food crops, fish, and goods within the extended family), and inati (institutional sharing) have long disappeared from the community.4 The clans (puikaiga) in Hawai‘i are organized around a clan elder or recently deceased ancestor, who is, or was, a central figure recognized by most first- and second-generation Tokelauans. The elders serve as each family’s cultural consultants to whom clan decisions are deferred. These vestiges of the Tokelauan culture that survived thus far are fast eroding in a society that privileges nuclear families. 

1.3 COMMUNITY EFFORTS FOR LANGUAGE MAINTENANCE. Since 2004, the Tokelauan community in Wahiawā, Central O‘ahu, has been making active efforts to revitalize the Tokelauan language as well as culture within the community. Two organizations play a key role in initiating and promoting the community’s efforts for language maintenance: Te Lumanaki o Tokelau i Amelika (The Future of Tokelau in America) and Te Taki (The Guide) Tokelau Community Inc.

1.3.1 TE LUMANAKI O TOKELAU I AMELIKA. In July, 2004, a youth group from Tokelau visited Honolulu on their way to the Palau Pacific Arts Festival. They performed for the Tokelauans who hosted them in Wahiawā. This encounter sparked a keen interest among the Tokelauan youth (teenagers and young adults) of the community in their Tokelauan heritage. They were deeply impressed by the richness of their cultural heritage and at the same time were shocked to realize that they knew very little of it. The children asked their parents why they had never taught them their own language and culture. It was a rude awakening not only for the children, but also for the parents, who had not seen any value in teaching their children Tokelauan, thinking that they would be better off with English. 

This incident led to a sudden awareness among young members of the community that the language was gradually disappearing within the community. Deeply moved by the children’s yearning to learn their heritage, two young parents started a Saturday school to teach the Tokelauan language as well as songs and dances. This is how Te Lumanaki o Tokelau i Amelika came into being. The elders of the community welcomed the opportunity to share their knowledge of the language and culture. As it turned out, they had long been concerned about language loss, but had never voiced their concerns until then. Te Lumanaki’s Saturday morning gatherings thus brought together an intergenerational group of Tokelauans who were eager to share the language, songs, and dances. 

Te Lumakaki has been the most successful of numerous attempts to form some kind of community groups among the Tokelauans living in Central O‘ahu. The group initially met in a Tokelauan family’s garage in Wahiawā. Within a few months, however, the number of participants increased so much that they had to look for a new, larger site. Currently, Te Lumanaki gatherings are regularly attended by sixty to eighty participants, ranging from age one to eighty-two. Meetings are now held at a local community hall in the very plantation labor camp that was home to their elders in the 1950s. 

Te Lumanaki has provided additional positive effects on the community. Through these Saturday morning meetings, the community members have strengthened their ties to each other. They are now utilizing the Saturday meetings not only as a place of teaching, but also for other purposes, e.g., inviting guest speakers to talk about various state and federal programs for minorities and/or low-income families and entertaining visitors from the homeland. The parents also observe that their children have gained higher self-esteem since they began attending Te Lumanaki. Moreover, through Te Lumanaki’s activities, the Tokelauan community has made its presence more visible in their host community as well as in the State of Hawai‘i. Te Lumanaki has been invited to perform at a variety of venues, including the East West Center Annual International Festival and the Annual Wahiawā Pineapple Festival. The school’s annual recital in 2006 was filmed by a Tokelauan crew trained by ‘Ōlelo Community Television and was broadcast statewide. 

1.3.2 TE TAKI TOKELAU COMMUNITY, INC. Te Lumanaki’s activities are entirely supported by voluntary contributions of funds, services, and goods from the private donors and participants, families, and teachers. The community’s strong interest in Te Lumanaki’s activities spurred the need for a more organized approach to language and cultural revitalization. In 2005, the designated ad hoc committee found that Te Lumanaki needed to get organized and also that there were funding opportunities available for community-based organizations like Te Lumanaki. A nonprofit organization, Te Taki Tokelau Community Inc. (henceforth Te Taki) was founded to serve as a Board of Directors for Te Lumanaki. A Council of Elders was also established to serve as cultural consultants for Te Taki. 

It was recognized that their primary immediate goal was to develop a formal and integrated curriculum for Te Lumanaki School and to raise fund to support the school’s activities. The Te Taki Board of Directors also found it to be necessary to gain accurate understanding of the linguistic situation of the community. In 2005, Te Taki was awarded a grant from the Administration for Native Americans (ANA) for a Tokelauan language assessment survey project. (Being under the jurisdiction of American Sāmoa, Tokelauans are recognized as native Americans.) The purpose of the survey was to collect information to help identify problems that contribute to language loss in order to develop appropriate strategies to reverse the language shift in the community. It was also hoped that the survey would establish a demographic baseline that might be of use to local, state, and federal agencies, as Tokelauans are an invisible minority within the general category of “Pacific Islanders.”

2. HOW WE BECAME INVOLVED. Although the directors of Te Taki were determined to investigate the linguistic situation in their community and had obtained funding to conduct a survey, they did not know how to get started. Chance brought together Te Taki and the authors, faculty members of the Department of Linguistics at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa (henceforth UHM), in April 2005, when one of the authors gave a talk entitled “Tongan as an endangered language? A new look at language endangerment in Polynesia” at the UHM Anthropology Colloquium Series. The talk was co-sponsored by the Department of Anthropology and the Center for the Pacific Islands Studies. The timing was perfect. The title caught the eyes of Betty Ickes, one of the directors of Te Taki, who was also a PhD candidate in history at UHM with close ties with the Center for Pacific Islands Studies. 

The talk discussed the causes of language shift and argued that despite its apparent stability, there were factors that raised concerns about the future of Tongan, especially the high prestige English enjoyed in the education system and the people’s view of English as the key to success (Otsuka 2007). Ickes noticed that many of the points raised in the talk were pertinent to Tokelauan. She was now convinced that Tokelauan was indeed in danger of disappearing in her community. Having found a potential source of support in the Department of Linguistics, Ickes contacted the authors to seek assistance in designing a language-assessment survey. This was a welcome surprise for the authors, who had no previous knowledge of Te Taki or the Tokelauan speaking community in O‘ahu. We enthusiastically agreed to collaborate with Te Taki and to create a questionnaire that would suit their purposes. We met with two Te Taki directors, Betty Ickes and Nathan Pedro, to discuss what they wanted to find out through this survey and what would be useful information for the future.

3. WHAT WE TRIED TO ACHIEVE.  As mentioned above, some members of the Tokalauan community were concerned that the language was being replaced by English or Hawai‘i Creole English. Our study, which is based on data collected from more than 400 participants, aims to assess systematically the validity of this observation. In particular, it investigates whether or not a language shift is indeed taking place in the Tokelauan community in Central O‘ahu. 

Research in other language communities has identified several areas that can indicate potential language shift: the relative number of speakers, the functional domains in which the language is used, and community members’ attitudes toward their language:

First, the size and composition of the speaker population are undoubtedly fundamental factors in assessing language vitality. A decline in the percentage of speakers and in speakers’ level of proficiency from one generation to the next is often a cause for concern among those involved in the maintenance of minority languages (Grenoble and Whaley 2006:5, UNESCO 2003). In bilingual or multilingual communities, such declines are usually taken as a sign of language shift in favor of the dominant language. As Lieberson (1980) cautions, however, generational differences do not always indicate a change through time; rather, they may be the effects of age grading. In other words, younger speakers may acquire the language and achieve a high level of competence as they become adults. Yet this seems rather unlikely in our case: Tokelauan is not offered as a school subject, and its acquisition relies heavily on intergenerational transmission in the family domain. Thus, in our study, we interpret age-related differences as arising from language shift. 

Second, the contraction of functional domains is often perceived as a characteristic of a dying language (Dorian 1981, 1991; Fishman 1972). In a community undergoing language shift, the oldest speakers tend to use the minority language under most circumstances, but the youngest speakers are likely to use the dominant language in almost all domains. In research on language maintenance, the family has probably received more attention than any other domain. This can be attributed to the importance accorded to intergenerational transmission in language maintenance efforts. As Fishman (1991:113) argues, “without intergenerational mother tongue transmission, … no language maintenance is possible. That which is not transmitted cannot be maintained.”  Fishman’s emphasis on the relationship between language maintenance and intergenerational transmission has drawn some criticisms in recent years (see, e.g., Romaine 2006). For many, however, intergenerational transmission continues to serve as an important benchmark for language vitality.

Third, the last stages of language shift are characterized by many community members’ unfavorable attitudes toward the minority language and favorable attitudes toward the dominant language (Fasold 1984:241). In her study of language shift in Oberwart, for instance, Gal (1979) found that young women led the whole community in the shift from Hungarian to German. She explained this finding in terms of the young women’s strong preference for the worker status (symbolized by German) and their staunch rejection of the peasant status (symbolized by Hungarian). Suffice it to say that although positive attitudes by no means guarantee the survival of a minority language (Kulick 1992), negative attitudes certainly make language maintenance all the more difficult. 

Based on these three indicators, we designed a questionnaire to examine the language competence, use, and attitudes among Tokelauans in Central O‘ahu (see Appendix). The first part of the questionnaire consists of questions about respondents’ speaking, reading and writing abilities in English, Tokelauan, Samoan, and other additional languages. Respondents are also asked to list their first, second, third, and possibly fourth languages. Ideally, a more objective measurement of language proficiency should be used. At this point, however, we would like to obtain rough estimates of the number of people in the community who claim proficiency in the languages mentioned above and who claim Tokelauan as their mother tongue. In the second part of the questionnaire, respondents indicate their language choice in several domains (e.g., home, neighborhood, friendship, school, work, and religion). Given the emphasis on intergenerational transmission in research on language maintenance, we are particularly interested in finding out if parents and grandparents speak Tokelauan to their children and grandchildren, respectively. Thus, respondents are requested to specify the language(s) they speak to different interlocutors in the family domain—i.e., spouse, parents, grandparents, siblings, children, and grandchildren. This will provide us with a more nuanced understanding of their language choice in this important domain. Finally, in the third part of the questionnaire, questions about language attitudes cover both the overt prestige and the covert prestige of the languages involved. A language carries overt prestige if it is seen as an essential tool for social and economic advancement. In contrast, covert prestige refers to the value of a language as a symbol of group identity and solidarity. Because of their covert prestige, many minority languages manage to survive, even though they are not used in economic and political domains. However, if a language lacks both overt prestige and covert prestige, its survival is most likely to be in jeopardy. 

As a primary method of collecting data, questionnaires have limitations. In terms of language competence, a more objective test is desirable, because speakers do not always have an accurate idea of how well they speak the language—it is not uncommon for speakers to overrate or underrate their language competence (Blair 1990:105, Grenoble and Whaley 2006:164). In terms of language use, ethnographic observation offers richer and more accurate data on actual language use. It also yields important insights into speakers’ code-switching patterns in domains where two or more languages are used. In addition, ethnographic research on language use goes beyond mere description and provides a more nuanced understanding of the reasons why language shift occurs in a given community (Gal 1979, Kulick 1992). In terms of language attitudes, an indirect approach using the matched-guise technique (see, e.g., Lambert et al. 1960) is sometimes claimed to be superior to direct questioning of respondents about their language attitudes, because it is more likely to elicit private attitudes and less likely to lead to the expression of attitudes that respondents regard as socially acceptable or socially desirable (Garrett et al. 2003:57). 

Despite these limitations, questionnaires (administered in face-to-face interviews) offer several advantages. They are particularly useful at the initial stages of an investigation, when researchers aim to uncover the relevant variables involved (Cooper 1980:113). Questionnaires also provide researchers with an economical way of gathering data from many people in a relatively short period of time (Holmes et al. 1993). This makes them ideal for obtaining a general overview of the sociolinguistic facts about a community. Our questionnaire is a crucial, first step toward understanding the mechanisms of language shift in our Tokelauan community. We would like to collect additional data through other means in the future, specifically, observational data on community members’ language use in different domains, as well as data on their cultural beliefs and language ideologies. Finally, and perhaps most important, compared with questionnaires, ethnographic observation, in-depth interviewing, language testing, and matched-guise tests are more time-consuming and require a higher level of commitment from researchers, community leaders, and community members. Due to the project’s time constraint, we had to collect and analyze the data within a year to report back to the funding agency. After discussing with several community leaders, we decided that an extensive questionnaire would be the most feasible data collection method. We designed the survey with input from the community leaders, but the primary data collectors were community members. 

As researchers, our main interest lies in the questions of what caused the decline or how people’s attitudes have affected language maintenance in this community. However, at this stage, the community members were more interested in gathering basic facts about the sociolinguistic situation of their community (e.g., the number of fluent Tokelauan speakers) than in understanding the causes of language shift. Thus, our decision to use a questionnaire at this initial stage of our research was the result of our attempt to balance our needs as researchers with the needs of the community with which we work. 

4. PRELIMINARY FINDINGS. The initial statistical analysis of the data is being performed by the community members. Although their analysis is still on-going, some preliminary findings are now available. Of 439 responses, 425 provided their self-reported proficiency in Tokelauan. First, as for the speaking ability, 83.1% of them answered that they speak Tokelauan a little or not at all; only 8% answered that their speaking ability is native-like. Turning to comprehension, 77.4% of them answered that they understood Tokelauan a little or not at all; those who rated their comprehension skills as native-like comprise 9.2%. These results confirm our initial impression that Tokelauan has ceased to be the main language of the community. Tokelauan is the first language for only 7.2% of those who answered this question (377 in total). 

There is a strong correlation between proficiency and age: proficiency increases with age. Place of birth is another factor that correlates with proficiency. 94% of those who answered this question were born outside of Tokelau, mostly in Hawai‘i (58.3%), but also in American Sāmoa (21.3%) and the Mainland U.S. (11%). As one would expect, the majority of those who reported their proficiency in speaking Tokelauan as “native-like” were born in either Tokelau (63.6%) or American Sāmoa  (27.3%). In contrast, 59.5% of those born in Hawai‘i reported their proficiency in speaking Tokelauan as “not at all.” Altogether, 91.4% of those born in Hawai‘i reported their proficiency in speaking Tokelauan as “not at all” or “a little.”   

As for their attitudes toward Tokelauan, the survey shows that the majority of those responded (a) consider the Tokelauan language to represent Tokelauan identity (81.7%) and (b) believe that children should learn Tokelauan (83.3%). Intriguingly, their attitudes toward English do not seem to be overwhelmingly positive: for example, nearly half of those who responded “strongly disagree” with the statement “People who speak English are more successful than those who don’t.” A thorough discussion of these and other results is beyond the scope of this paper. 

5. WHAT WE PLAN TO ACCOMPLISH IN THE FUTURE. Apart from analyzing the current data, we plan to expand the scope of our research by collecting additional data through other methods and also by comparing language shift in the Tokelauan community with that in other communities in Hawai‘i. As previously mentioned, the questionnaire is part of a larger project that examines language shift in the Tokelauan community in Central O‘ahu. So far, the community leaders involved in this project have gathered data from more than 400 participants. In the future, we would like to collect data on community members’ cultural beliefs and language ideologies through interviews and ethnographic observation. Such information will give us insights into why language shift is taking place in this community. As Kulick (1992: 9) explains, language shift is:

… caused, ultimately, by shifts in personal and group values and goals. Social changes such as urbanization or industrialization may lead people to revise their perceptions of themselves and their world. And these revisions may eventually be responsible for a group’s giving up its vernacular language…. Viewed in this way, the study of language shift becomes the study of a people’s conceptions of themselves in relation to one another and to their changing social world, and of how those conceptions are encoded by and mediated through language.

The Tokelauan project will be the first step in a series of studies that investigate language maintenance and language shift in Polynesian and Micronesian communities in Hawai‘i. These studies will involve the participation of other communities and ideally the collaboration with students in the Language Documentation and Conservation track of our graduate program.

Our involvement in the Tokelauan revitalization project has also initiated collaboration between this community and linguists working in the area of language documentation. In response to the community’s need for teaching materials, the authors referred Te Taki to the UH Language Documentation Training Center, a student organization run by graduate students in the Department of Linguistics. Three graduate students, Akiemi Glenn, Katya Jenson, and Sara Olson, responded with much enthusiasm and took up the task of making a children’s dictionary. Such documentation activities, developing hand in hand with maintenance activities, will provide a comprehensive corpus of the Tokelauan language as spoken in this community, which will be utilized for syntactic as well as phonological analysis to further our understanding of this language. 

6. WHAT WE LEARNED. Our involvement in the Tokelauan project has taught us several valuable lessons about working with endangered language communities:

1. COLLABORATING. Language revitalization calls for collaboration not only between linguists and community members, but also among linguists with different areas of expertise. As Nagy (2000) points out, field linguists often feel the need to be many things to many people. They are called upon to construct orthographies, write dictionaries, develop teaching materials, create literacy programs, and engage in other language conservation activities. In other words, they need to wear a number of different hats: e.g., that of a theoretical-linguist, a sociolinguist, an applied-linguist, and a technology expert. However, as Nagy cautions, “it is difficult to wear more than one [hat] at a time; different fashion experts have different views about which hats are best; the selection of available hats differs from shop to shop; and some hats just don’t fit some heads” (p. 146). We must confess that some hats just fit us better than others do. 

2. CREATING MATERIALS AND CURRICULA. Given our training, we are more comfortable with analyzing the grammar of a given language and investigating language shift in a particular community than with designing curricula and developing pedagogical materials. Yet curriculum design and the development of teaching materials are essential components of any language revitalization program. Like many other minority language communities, Te Lumanaki is desperately in need of textbooks and other teaching materials. Even though the teachers are volunteers and not trained educators, they have had to create their own teaching materials. In Tokelau, Tokelauan has been promoted as the medium of instruction replacing English. There was also a school publication project, which produced a small variety of children’s books. While these are made available through the TUPU series in New Zealand, there is no textbook for Tokelauan as a second language suitable for child learners.5 We believe, due to their importance, these tasks need to be carried out by applied linguists. Our role is to help endangered language communities find people with the necessary skills and knowledge to perform these tasks. The success of a language revitalization program depends on the collaboration among community members, linguists, applied linguists, and other scholars with different areas of expertise.

3. RECOGNIZING AND USING COMMUNITY INITIATIVES. The Tokelauan project confirms the importance of balancing the needs of the community with those of researchers. We as linguists wanted to use this case study to further our understanding of language shift/loss in general, an extensive and long process. This would have been too time-consuming, and it wouldn’t have yielded the results that the community requested in a timely fashion. The project has been extremely successful in terms of both the number of participants and their level of enthusiasm. We feel that this is largely because the call for revitalization came from within the community, as has been noted in the literature (e.g., Ladefoged 1992, Wright 2004). Rather than attempting to impose our research interests, our project was formed as listening to the community’s needs, forming lasting relationship.

It should be noted that in the current case, the motivation came from the young members of the community. Generally, it is this generation that favors the dominant language, and disfavors the minority language (see, e.g., Gal 1979). Yet, in this case, they are the ones who are keen to reclaim their heritage language. Parents encouraged their children to learn and speak English at the expense of Tokelauan. The grandparents’ generation laments the decline of their language and the children’s generation seeks to reclaim what was lost. It is as if the value of the vernacular was reassessed after a generation of radical language shift. If this is a recurrent pattern among the immigrant (minority) communities, the success of the Tokelauan project may shed light on our understanding of language shift and revitalization in immigrant minority communities.    

4. INFORMING THE PUBLIC. In addition, our experience with the Tokelauan community has made us realize the importance of publicizing our research. There are other communities as well that are looking for help, but do not know where to turn. They cannot know that somewhere there are experts on language maintenance, because they usually have little or no connection with local academe. Retrospectively, what about the communities that are unaware of the potential danger their language is in?  In this respect, it is vital that linguists (and other language experts) make themselves visible and available to such communities. This may be achieved by giving public lectures, contributing in local papers, and speaking on local radio and television, for example.

5. TEACHING AND LEARNING FROM OTHER IMMIGRANT COMMUNITIES. In cases like Tokelauan, the majority of the population resides outside the homeland, and therefore, language maintenance is largely dependent on diasporic communities (Taumoefolau et al. 2002). Recognizing this problem, the New Zealand government has taken the initiative in promoting the maintenance of the Polynesian languages spoken in minority communities in New Zealand, as well as the indigenous Māori language. Although New Zealand offers an ideal model of government involvement in the maintenance of nonindigenous minority languages, it is undoubtedly not an easy policy to implement and cultivate. Without any official support from the relevant government, the maintenance of language and culture in an immigrant minority community would have to rely completely on the community itself. The language revitalization project in the Tokelauan community in Hawai‘i may offer useful lessons for other immigrant minority communities under similar circumstances.


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Appendix: Tokelauan Language Survey

Address Street:
Address City, State & Zip Code:
D.O.B: Age:
Telephone #: Cell#: E-Mail:
Place of Birth: Marital Status: Gender:
Highest grade completed: Are you employed:
If born in Tokelau (or anywhere other than US), date of arrival in U.S.
If U.S. born, how many generations since the first settlers.
Please indicate the level of proficiency in each of the following languages. Use the following scale:
1= Not at all, 2= A little, 3= Well, 4= Very Well, 5= Native-like
1. Tokelauan / Speak 9. Samoan / Speak
2. Tokelauan / Understand 10. Samoan / Understand
3. Tokelauan / Read 11. Samoan / Read
4. Tokelauan / Write 12. Samoan / Write
5. English / Speak 13. Other (specify) Speak
6. English / Understand 14. Other (Specify) Understand
7. English / Read 15. Other (Specify) Read
8. English / Write 16. Other (Specify) Write
17. Which Language are you most comfortable using?
18. What is your first language?
19. What is your second language?
20. What’s your third language?
21. What’s your fourth language?
Answer N/A if the question doesn’t apply to you.
What language(s) do you use when you speak to each of the following? Please specify the reason (e.g., I speak English with my husband because he is American and does not speak Tokelauan). If you use more than one language, please specify which one you use most frequently.
22. Your parents and their generation.
23. Your grandparents and their generation.
24. Your siblings.
25. Your children and their generation.
26. Your grandchildren and their generation.
27. Your spouse.
28. Tokelauan friends.
29. Non-Tokelauan friends.
30. Tokelauan neighbors.
31. Non-Tokelauan neighbors.
32. Local school teacher.
33. Tokelauan colleagues.
34. Non-Tokelauan colleagues.
35. Do you or your child attend any Tokelau language school? If Yes, what is the name of the Tokelauan language school?
What language(s) do you use when you speak to:
36. Tokelauan school teachers (in class).
37. Tokelauan school teachers (outside class room).
38. Classmates (in class).
39. Classmates (outside class room).
40. What language(s) do you use when you pray?
41. What language(s) do you use when you dream?
42. What language(s) do you use when you think?
43. What language(s) do you use when you talk to yourself?
44. What language(s) do you use in religious ceremonies?
45. What language(s) do you use in church?
46. What language(s) do you use in writing letters?
47. What language(s) do you use in e-mail?
48. Do you listen to any radio program in Tokelauan?
49. Do you watch any TV program in Tokelauan?
50. Do you read any newspaper in Tokelauan?
51. Do you listen and/or play Tokelauan music?
52. In reference to question #51. If Yes, in what occasions?
53. Which language(s) do you use in court system?
54. Are you a member of any Tokelauan social group/organization?
55. In reference to question #54. If Yes, Specify the name and nature of the organization.
56. In reference to question #54. If Yes, which language(s) do you use there?
57. Is Tokelauan culture practiced in your home?
58. In reference to question #57. What aspect(s) of Tokelauan culture is practiced?
59. What language do you use in public/private school?
60. What language do you use in cultural activities?
61. What language do you use at work?
Please state if you agree or disagree with the following statements. Use the scale:
1= don’t know 2= completely disagree 3= slightly disagree 4= slightly agree 5= completely agre
62. Tokelauan language represents Tokelauan identity.
63. I like using Tokelauan.
64. Children should learn Tokelauan.
65. In the future, Tokelauan language will disappear in Tokelau.
66. We need official support to keep Tokelauan language alive.
67. I am proud to be a Tokelauan speaker/I admire those who speak Tokelauan.
68. I like friends with whom I can speak in Tokelauan.
69. People who speak Tokelauan are more trustworthy than those who don’t.
70. People who speak English are smarter than those who don’t.
71. People who speak English are more successful than those who don’t.
72. It is essential to speak English in order to succeed in modern world.
73. Kids who speak both Tokelauan and English do better in school than those who speak just English.
74. It’s difficult for kids to learn both English and Tokelauan at the same time.
75. Children should learn English before they learn Tokelauan.
76. Children should learn Tokelauan before they learn English.

Yuko Otsuka
yotsuka at hawaii dot edu

Andrew Wong
adwwong at hawaii dot edu

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