Let's learn Tongan

Tongan superhero in training


For a tiny nation we have so much to be proud of. Pita Lolo carried our flag proudly at Rio Olympic Games in 2016 and this year we are cheering as Mate Maʻa Tonga play to victory #RLWC2017.

When I consider how a tiny nation continues to accomplish despite its size, I am reminded of these two quotes.

“Ko Tonga moʻunga ki he loto” – Tongan Proverb

The first is a proverb meaning Tonga’s strength-hold is its heart. Moʻunga means mountain and Tonga is not known for mountains yet we have a courageous spirit that when faced with a mountain and the challenges that it brings we do not shy away.

“We should not be defined by the smallness of our islands, but by the greatness of our oceans. We are the sea, we are the ocean. Oceania is us”. – Epeli Hauʻofa

The second is a quote by author Epeli Hauʻofa. We Tongans DO NOT define ourselves by the size of our small islands. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that we have never been colonized, but we Tongans define ourselves more by the vastness of what was once the Tongan maritime empire.

For my children and the younger students that I teach the Tongan language to, I like to put things simply that they can understand and relate to. “You come from a line of warriors, You are a superhero in training!”

Your superpower is your language. Your superpower is your culture. “Ko Tonga moʻunga ki he loto”. Always remember who you are and the faith and prayers of your family and ancestors. Take the time to learn as much as you can of your culture and language. Embrace your superpower. Use it for good!

Tuʻa ʻofa ʻeiki atu Hema


Lea ʻoe Uike: Siʻoto ʻofa

Koe lea ʻoe Uike’. The word of the week!

Greetings, our learning journey for this new year begins with a word of the week or more like my favourite word or a new word that iʻve come across. 

It is a Tongan greeting which you donʻt often hear as the more popular greeting of mālō e lelei. If you grew up in Tonga then you are probably familiar with the word but for most of us raised outside the kingdom this will interest you.

As with all new words you learn, you quickly become aware of the word around you. And the more i come across it, the more i love it. 

Reading one of the Maui legends in Tongan, Maui greets a lady on one of his epic journies with Siʻoto ʻofa fefine! Greetings Lady!

In the Tongan bible Angel Gabriel comes to the Virgin Mary (Luke 1:28) “the angel went to her and said siʻoto ʻofa you who are higly favoured, the lord is with you.” Note there is no mālō e lelei!.

Then on a recent post on facebook i noticed the same greeting on my grandfathers grave. The translation being ‘Dear greetings to you Rev. S Lemoto Tongilava beloved father’.

This greeting has now become a favourite of mine. It just seems more poetic than mālō e lelei so i will be using it more often.

Happy Learning, Tuʻa ʻofa atu Hema 👋🏽

Foʻilea ‘oe Uike’: Ako

Mālō e lelei! To encourage the use of the Tongan language we are posting a word of the week that can be used with children or beginners. 

Ako (ah-koh) is a wonderful word in Tongan. It is the word for learning. It is also the word for teaching. In our culture, ako is about the collective sharing of knowledge, mutual learning. It is one word that can be used to describe all types of learning. To learn, to teach, to master, to practice, to study, to teach oneself: self-education.

  1. Naʻa ne ʻalu ʻo ako. He/She went to school.
  2. Tau ‘alu ki he ako faiva’.  Let’s go to the dance practice.

Tu’a ‘ofa atu Hema

Tapa wedding dresses to admire

For as long as I can remember I wanted a Tapa wedding dress for my wedding and 12 years ago I did just that when it wasn’t in vogue. It is so nice to see the creativity and popularity grow. Hope you enjoy my little tribute to the wonderful creations. If you’re a bride-to-be, may it inspire you.

Five things/ vocabulary to know about Tapa.

  1. Tapa is cloth made from the bark of the mulberry tree.
  2. Feta’aki is the white cloth before any dye or design (kupesi) is put on to make it the final product called a ngatu.
  3. Ngatu ‘uli (plain all black-coloured) is the chiefly of all types of ngatu.
  4. Koka’anga is the term for the making of the Tapa.
  5. Fale koka’anga is where traditional learning and knowledge is shared for all the women.
  6. When a ngatu presentation is done you will hear the Matapule say “Fakafetaʻi e koka’anga” (Thank you for your Tapa presentation).

Like and Comment which one is your favourite.

Tu’a ‘ofa atu Hema.


Know your Tongan: ki (v) kia

Here is the first of our Thursday Grammar. Do you know the difference between the two words “ki” and “kia”?  Both mean the same English preposition word “to”.

Thurs grammar

Read carefully the information above and fill in the blanks.

Is it “ki” or “kia”?

  1. ‘Ave _____ Sione. Give it to John.
  2. Na’a’ ke lea _____ Mele? Did you talk to Mary?
  3. ‘Alu ____ he falekoloa’ Go to the shop.
  4. Na’a’ ke falala _____ Tomasi? Did you trust Thomas?
  5. Foki ____ ‘api. Return home.
  6. Sio  ____ he faiako’. Look at the teacher.

Hope this helps you. Leave a comment and share with those who do not know the difference.

Tu’a ‘ofa atu Hema

2015 a year of learning

At this time of year I like to remind myself and all the entire Tongan Language School of how much they have achieved in 2015. So I created this video. Kids always love to see themselves in videos. I then challenged my family to write down their new goals. Amongst our new family goals is to speak more in Tongan. To consciously catch ourselves when we speak in English. To make more opportunities to use our language. What one Tongan word will describe 2016 for you? Will it be ako (learn, learning). For me it will be the word “va’inga” (play). To be more playful, to incorporate more play-based learning into my lessons. 2016 will be a year to play.

‘Ofa ke mou ma’u ha ta’u fo’ou fiefia.

Tu’a ‘ofa atu Hema

How to love your long Tongan name

Tangaki Taulupe Faletau

Do you or your child have a long Tongan name? Chances are most pālangi people can not pronounce it. Am i right? Like Taulupe, you are probably using a nickname or prefer your pālangi name over your Tongan name. It’s James not Semisi. 

When asked her name, a young student said her pālangi name until the teacher found out her name was Vaʻelaveamata and insisted on using her Tongan name. Who would name their child (foot injured face/eyes) which is the literal meaning. I wondered wether she knew the origin of her name? She was a beautiful girl who became the wife of the Tu’i Tonga back in 1450. Her name was Va’e (foot) but when the Tu’i Tonga saw her he was so blinded to the point of injury by her beauty that she became known as Va’elaveamata

Here are my tips in teaching kids at a young age to love their name. 

  1. Know the Story behind the name.
  2. Share the story. Keep reminding them what an awesome name they have. Share stories of their namesake.
  3. Make sure teachers/ friends can pronounce their name correctly. It isnʻt that hard teachers ʻread it how you see it, phonetically. 

Mālō Tuʻa ʻofa atu


%d bloggers like this: