"Gagana Samoa" was written twenty years ago by Galumalemana Alfred Hunkin, head of the department of Samoan Studies at Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand. The new edition has several new features to help people learn Samoan, including a CD to help people listen to the correct pronunciation. Mr Hunkin tells me the textbook needs a new edition because it's become popular in the United States, and is even being used by non-Samoans who want to learn the language.
Presenter: Bruce Hill
Speaker: Galumalemana Alfred Hunkin, head of Samoan Studies at Victoria University in Wellington
HUNKIN: The major change in this new improvised edition, it is the addition of a glossary or to put it simply a dictionary of all the words, all the Samoan words in the book, so that's a very big edition and it will help make a self-contained textbook.
HILL: Is this the kind of book that students simply pick up and start actually learning the Samoan language from? Can you learn Samoan from a book or do you really need to be in Samoan cultural linguistic context for it to really work?
HUNKIN: The book covers the basics of the language, which means that you start from scratch, so it incorporates a structure, vocabulary and also a sound CD which goes with it which makes it a complete set that a student can pick up without to much help from the teacher if you cannot get a teacher and begin to learn it yourselves. And I have had responses over the years, because the book is nearly 20 years old. In fact this is the revised edition now makes it far easier for a learner to pick up by themselves with the help of a CD that you can download from the university presses web site.
HILL: Now the fact that this is actually published by the University of Hawaii Press, does that indicate that this is going to get a much wider publication than just within say New Zealand, where you're based or in Samoa?
HUNKIN: Well, the interesting thing about it Bruce, that because the University Press of Hawaii will only publish authors I guess that will sell internationally, that the book proved itself over the years by American Samoans in America, the United States buy this, so that when this revised edition came up, they offered to publish it because of that very fact and so it means that the book is widely used by Samoans all over the globe.
HILL: There are plenty of Samoans living outside Samoa, who now no longer actually have a command of their own language, aren't there?
HUNKIN: That's true and that is a natural thing that happens when people migrate to new lands, they find that the lingua franca of that land takes over. But Samoan community has tried, particularly here in New Zealand and I guess in the US as well to maintain and hold onto their language and their culture through their language. So this book in many ways reflects the wish and the desire of the community to learn their language, but that there is this opportunity now to actually begin, particularly with the children who do not know how to speak their language, because of the power of language such as English.
HILL: Are there non-Samoans who are interested in learning the Samoan language, not just Samoans themselves?
HUNKIN: Yes, there are quite a few New Zealanders of other backgrounds who learn the Samoan language here. For example, where I teach at the Victoria University, up at Auckland University in Auckland, and the high schools and preschools here in New Zealand. I am aware that there are children of inter marriages who are also very much keen to learn the language and of course this textbook helps those who are able to read and use language as it is a bilingual approach and so it helps in that process.