Mahana o te Re’o Rapa Nui

The Day of Our Language

On Friday, November 3, the Island celebrated ”The Day of Our Language”. This has become a festival of the local schools with presentations of dance, song, recitals, art shows and documentaries produced by the students and their teachers throughout the school year. The day was overwhelmed with flowers. Many of those who assisted were decked out in the local tradition of crowns of beautiful seasonal flowers.

The Day of Our Language was created in 1995 by two teachers of Rapanui language, Hilaria Tuki and Virginia Haoa, to make the community aware of the abject regression in the use of the native language and showcase the importance of education as the motor for the maintenance of Rapanui culture and language. Haoa recalls talking with students’ parents who didn’t see it that way … “it’s not useful to speak Rapanui if they will live away from the Island, to get a decent job or to get Moni (money). “

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Based on successful experiences with programs of language recovery in New Zealand and Hawaii, Virginia Haoa then presented a program of Rapanui language immersion for students up to 8th elementary level which has been maintained successfully to date. In 2004, teachers and other authorities were able to establish the Academy of the Rapanui Language, with the intention to normalize the writing of the language which is traditionally oral, under the support of resident linguists, N. Thiessen and R. Weber, as well as to assist with educational material for the public school and facilitate translations for governmental institutions.

Since then, at the end of the school year, teachers and students present their work in the arts, technology, literature and gastronomy to the local authorities, their families and the community in general. The Day of Our Language is a festival and a celebration of their achievements in maintaining the Rapanui language.

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