Bible helps keep Tokelauan language alive


Today, only 34% of Tokelauans speak their heritage language. This is why the Bible Society’s Tokelau Bible translation project is so important – it allows Tokelauans to read the Bible in their own  language and helps preserve their language and the culture.

The project began in the 1990s when members of the Tokelaun expatriate community approached New Zealand’s Bible Society about producing the Bible in their language.

The Tokelauan Society for the Translation of the Bible is an inter-church committee comprising principally the Congregational Church, and the Pacific Islands congregations of the Presbyterian Church together with some Catholic involvement.

The first translators were appointed in 1996, and two of them are still at work today – Ioane Teao and Loimata Iupati. Ioane Teao has been the one who’s driven the project all the way.

The Bible Society’s translation director Stephen Pattemore told RNZ’s Dominic Godfrey that the Bible Society has been providing training and technical support since the project officially started.

The Tokelauan New Testament was launched in June 2009.

Pattemore says they have now translated all the books of the Protestant Canon of the Old  Testament.

They have also translated several books of the Catholic Deuterocanon, but there is still a distance to go there. “What we would really like is some more involvement from Catholic translators,” he says.

They are now working on both community level checking and consultant-checking to have the Old testament finalised for publication, hopefully next year.

Tokelau was evangelised by missionaries from Samoa over 150 years ago. The Samoan Bible has been used until now.

But it was decided very early on that they were not going to refer to Samoan as a source text, said Pattemore.

“This was going to be a new Tokelauan translation which found its way starting from an English base rather than constantly referring to the Samoan.”

There are 1,400 Tokelauans living on the islands of Tokelau.

More than 7,000 Tokelauans live in New Zealand, with 50% living in Wellington.

There are also communities in Auckland, Taupō and Rotorua.

Ke manuia koutou i te Alofa o te Atua . “May you be blessed in God’s love.”


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News category: Asia Pacific.

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