Samoan dictionary almost complete

The committee compiling the country’s first Samoan language reference dictionary has four or five letters and symbols remaining to finalise, says a committee member and former Speaker of Parliament Vaa Tolofuaivalelei Leiataua.

Vaa told the media on Thursday they have completed research for most of the written letters and characters to be used in the dictionary and they have to work on just four or five more.

The committee was prepared to disband on Thursday and bid farewell to the Culture Division of the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture (M.E.S.C.) but when they met with Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Saielele Malielegaoi that day, the committee was encouraged to complete the dictionary, he said.

Vaa thanked the Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Culture Division of M.E.S.C. for supporting their work and commended his colleagues for their commitment to the dictionary. 

Chairman of the National Council of Churches (N.C.C.) Rev. Kasiano Leaupepe is on the committee, Vaa said, and he thanked the Reverend and other church ministers for their contributions. He thanked his many esteemed members of the committee and his female colleagues.

 “This is a nice opportunity.  We were supposed to finish on Thursday but the Prime Minister has said we must continue the work until the book is completed,” he said.

“We don’t have many [letters] left. I think we have about four or five letters remaining…and some [letters], they have 3,000 words.”

The dictionary will include words from The Holy Bible, Vaa added.

“The committee is pleased, happy that the Prime Minister has come to let us know what he wants done and that we should finish our work. His input is important…the committee will continue with our work,” he said.

“There have been six Prime Ministers and we have been independent for years, since 1962, but no administration has done the dictionary."

The committee will take a two-week break and resume their work on 23 November.

“For the two weeks, we have been given assignments like the school children. We have been given words from the commissioner that we must research,” said Vaa.

Children who will utilise the Samoan dictionary are being kept in mind by the committee, he noted, so they must ensure that the words utilised can be comprehended by children of all ages. 

“This is the first time the Government has created a book like this in our language. It is not like other dictionaries that have Samoan [words with] English translations,” Vaa said.

“We are an example to the Pacific. Other countries look to Samoa as the example when it comes to our language. It is such a great work and it’s a big deal to be called upon to do this work. We are warmed that we will continue the work and we will be paid for it.”

In English, the type of book the committee is compiling is called a dictionary but Vaa reiterates “there are no English words in this book.”

It is titled “Le Tusi Faatonu Upu o le Gagana Samoa.”

There is no set date for the dictionary’s completion.

It might be completed around election time in April of 2021, said Vaa.

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