Preserving authenticity

A ‘digital bookshelf’ created at Victoria is helping New Zealand’s Cook Islands community preserve its language and traditional stories.

The Hutt Valley Cook Islands Association is the latest group to contribute to the Rays of Sound website, an online language resource created by Victoria’s Language Learning Centre. The Hutt Valley group contributed recordings of traditional songs, stories and hymns originally written by their ancestors and passed down through generations.

One of its members, Analiese Robertson, says this gives their community a meaningful connection with the stories they recorded for the website.

“The online resource has been quite significant, because they’re not just English stories that have been translated into te reo Kuki ‘Airani. They’re authentic stories that are represented by the people here in Lower Hutt and, in some cases, the descendants of the authors of those stories have provided the recordings.”

She says the community recognises the potential digital technology has for preserving the Cook Islands Maori language.

“We want this resource to be used by the future generations of New Zealandborn Cook Islanders who have been disconnected from our homeland and from our culture by their lack of access to their language.”

The project is part of Victoria’s commitment to celebrating and fostering community languages, and draws on the University’s wealth of expertise in languages and cultures.

The Cook Islands Maori recordings join the existing te reo Māori and Samoan recordings on the Rays of Sound website. Balint Koller from the Language Learning Centre, who led the project, says the free resources on the digital bookshelf are available for anyone to use.

“We would like all New Zealanders to try and engage with other languages, because there’s a lot of value locked up in these languages, and if they’re lost they’re gone forever. “We have a duty, if we can, to try and preserve as much of them as we can.”