'Teine Samoa' launches for Samoan Language Week

A new e-book written while the author was in coronavirus lockdown - ‘Teine Samoa’ -  is launching this week as New Zealand marks Samoan Language Week.

Dahlia Malaeulu is the author of a series aimed at pre-school and junior primary readers. 

In 2019, she released the first of three books in the ‘Mila’s My Gagana’ series.

She says it took just seven days to pen her latest title which aims to develop cultural confidence in Samoan children and adults among the New Zealand diaspora.

Samoan is the third most widely spoken language in the nation; about 145,000 Kiwis identify as Samoan and about 60 per cent of them can hold a conversation in Samoan, census figures show. 

“It took me seven days because you got lovely lockdown and I had a lot of ideas and I have been writing a lot and I think once you’re in the flow of things…[the] ideas just really came in…,” Mrs. Malaeulu told the Samoa Observer. 

The Wellington-based author was born in New Zealand to parents from Vaivase Tai and Sinamoga, in Samoa.

Her Samoan language series, Mila’s Gagana, includes 12 books that were inspired by Pasifika stories and her sons Mason and Isaia.

“They were picked up by a publisher and they got brought out to the world and we have had a really positive feedback and response to that… so it’s been really good and it’s kind of fed into this journey of cultural confidence,” she said. 

The book is scheduled to be released on 24 May while Samoan Language Week runs from then until 30 May. 

“We decided to do it in celebration of Samoan Language Week because it is the one week out of the year that celebrates our language, our culture but also our identity,” Mrs. Malaeulu said.

The young adult fiction tells the story of four young Samoan women in junior high school: Lani, Masina, Vai and Teuila. 

Lani is an afakasi, unsure of her Samoan heritage and what being Samoan entails but one thing she is sure of is that she’s afraid of Vai and the ‘real samoans’.

Masina is the free-spirited daughter of a Church Minister, bound by parental expectations and struggling to fulfill the destiny set by her parents and Teuila is the classic good island girl.

Mrs. Malaeulu said the response to earlier releases from Samoans everywhere has been overwhelming.

“I even had stories of people almost 50 years old and saying they still find this hard to deal with and had questions that needed to be answered,” she said.

The book is written in English but Samoan words are woven throughout.

“[Culture is the biggest influence in my life] because I was raised by strong Samoan women, strong teine Samoa… they never gave up on me and they were the ones who really are the shoulders that I stand upon,” she said. 

Dahlia is focusing on Pasifika stories and resources that reflect Pasifika values, languages, cultures with a special focus on Samoan children. 

New Zealand’s coronavirus restrictions are currently listed at stage two, with schools scheduled to open next week, she said.

“It’s definitely different, it's not the same as the old way but it’s certainly getting better and the better is kind of going back to the normal so I think a lot of the anxiety has come down a bit and we are returning back to normality a bit,” Malaeulu told the Observer.

This story has been amended to correct key details of the author's family.

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