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Poor quality Tongan threatens democracy

Nuku'alofa, Tonga


It was a pleasure to finally meet you last Thursday at the Media Council Seminar. Among other issues, we first heard Lord Vaea – a sitting Member of Parliament, and an experienced certified court translator – gave an honest analytical observation of the quality of journalistic work we are doing in the local media in Tonga.

He classified local media members as “young” and “lazy” journalists. And I couldn’t have agreed more with the MP. Lord Vaea’s opening remarks were given at a Tonga Media Council seminar at the Education Technical Institute at Pahu; a sponsored event by the Canadian High Commission’s Pacific Office, last Thursday.

That has been my personal opinion as well for years, in reading Tongan newspapers published in the Tongan language. The Tongan media does need a wakeup call: (a) to critique the quality of their journalism work; (b) to serve the public in providing correct; (c) unbiased, and (d) fair news reporting.

Lord Vaea’s speech was titled “The New Political Context.” How does the media role impact our fledgling democracy? Fittingly, Lord Vaea identified “our language” as the foundation of the democracy. Poor quality of writing – and I might add, the lackluster quality of statesmanship by politicians − is a threat to our language, therefore posing a threat to our democracy upon which it is based.

Attacks in the Local Media; Lack of Political Statesmanship

Lord Vaea shares my disappointment with local Tongan writers in the “lack of good record-keeping, referencing archives, documents and published manuscripts,” he said. He was referring, of course, to the lack of referencing historical facts and events in the context of modern writing. 

I share the same concern. Most young journalists seem to be dwelling in the exciting modern era of the information technology (IT), preferring to Tonganize English words to be cute and seem “educated.” They seem too lazy to get up from their comfortable computer-keyboards to search for the correct Tongan translations from English.

I’ve visited with several local journalists and I was surprised to witness a basic deficiency in their journalism work habits; they don’t even have at the least, a copy of the Dr. C. Maxwell Churchward’s “Tongan-English Dictionary,” and the “Tongan Grammar” (1959) texts.

These are essential “tools of the trade” for journalists who must write in Tongan. These texts are my most valuable references as a Tongan writer − unfortunately, my copies have been stolen since I arrived in Tonga. But complacency among Tongan writers in local newspapers, Tongan speech in public broadcasting, as well as in public speaking by politicians are riddled with Tonganized English words and phrases.

Meanwhile, we do have Tongan translations available. May the real “Tongan Statesman” stand please, and give us a real Tongan oratory?

Politicians Are Lazy B . . ms

Example 1: Prime Minister Pōhiva often uses the word “molale,” among many others. “Molale” is a Tonganized version of “moral,” or “morality.” We have at least fours definitions in the Churchward dictionary: “angama‘a,” “anga-totonu,” “angatonu,” and “faitotonu,” etc.

Why doesn’t he lookup the translation himself? Or have one of his bright advisors who are paid the big money look it up? I do think they prefer to speak in English rather than in Tongan. This is a form of non-transparency sophism; the privilege of the educated and the rich.

Example 2: In a recent radio interview, one of the ministers kept repeating the word “procurement.” I don’t even know the term myself; and let alone the poor folks in the villages, who may have had less education. The well-paid minister ought to look up the correct Tongan translation before going on the interview.

We pay him lots of money as a minister, and it is his responsibility to give us information in an easy-to-understand manner. This is another form of a non-transparency government, by reminding us how ignorant we the people are.

Example 3: A radio announcer explained that the ocean has returned to “nōmolo” after the “red-sea” scare in January. She kept repeating herself to say the ocean is “nōmolo.” This is a typical of young local broadcasters; they are too lazy to look up the Churchward’s Tongan translation of “normal,” which is “totonu,” “anga-totonu,” and I can add “anga-maheni,” etc.

Poor Writing Quality in the Tongan Language

I do also concur with Lord Vaea’s assessment that journalists’ preference is to write and broadcast in English rather than in Tongan. It is fashionable to be able to talk in English, and use as many English words in a Tongan conversation as possible.

Broadcast advertisers are notorious habitual “Pidgin-Tongan/English” violators. They remind me of Pidgin-Hawaiian/English users before the “Hawaiian Cultural Renaissance” of the early 1970s. It was so bad that Pidgin-English speakers were the only ones who understood their dialect. And now, the English is the official and preferred language of Hawai‘i.

I must agree with Lord Vaea: The quality of writing in the Tongan language has deteriorated. No where this is more evident than in the Tongan-language newspapers: (a) writers have poor writing-composition skills; (b) they are borrowing too many English-Tonganized words and phrases; (c) and they do not follow fundamental journalism practices and ethical protocols.

   In my professional judgment, Tongan-language writers are not well-trained in writing composition: (a) there is no “straight” news reporting in print journalism; (b) most do write “straight” news stories as opinion-editorial (op-ed) pieces; (c) most do write long paragraphs on various subjects without using punctuation marks; (d) they do not know how to capitalize proper nouns; (e) and misspelling of Tongan words is rampant, a result of bad proof-reading by editors.

Sione A. Mokofisi

Director: English, Journalism & Languages

Tonga International Academy


'Oku 'ikai ke fakamana'i (threatens) 'ehe 'Poor quality Tongan' ia 'a e 'democracy' 'i Tonga. Ko e fa'ahinga 'oku nau fakamana'i (threatens ) 'a e 'democracy' 'i Tonga, 'a e fa'ahinga koia 'oku nau fehi'a 'i he 'democracy'. 'Oku mahu'inga ke tonu, 'i ha'ate lipooti fk-nusipepa 'a e kalama, tonu 'a e fkpalakalafi, tonu 'a e sipela, 'ilo ki he ngaahi lea faka-Tonga, 'ilo ki he lea fakapapalangi etc. Ka 'oku 'ikai koha me'a ia kene fakamana'i ai 'a e 'democracy' 'i Tonga. Ko e me'a ia 'oku mahu'inga ange, ke mahino ki he kakai 'a e 'uhinga mo e poini 'oku tukumai 'eha kau faiongoongo. Kapau 'oku tohi fkTonga kae humai ai ha ngaahi fo'ilea fkpapalangi, koeha hono kovi ? Pea kapau 'oku te tohi fkpapalangi 'ata'ata pe, 'oku 'ikai hano kovi, ka ko e me'a pe mahalo ko e peseti pe 5 'o e kakai Tonga tenau lau 'ete fakakaukau. Manatu kuo uesia 'etau lea fkTonga 'ehe lea-English, pea kapau 'oku te feinga ke fakamahino 'ete poini 'aki ha fo'i lea fakapilitania, pea 'oku totonu ketau fiefia ai. 'Oku 'ikai ke fakamana'i ai 'a e 'democracy' ia. Kapau te u feinga ke fkmahano'i 'eku poini 'aki 'a e fakakaukau 'o e angama'a . Koe'uhi kuo uesia mo feohi 'etau lea fkTonga mo e lea fkpapalangi, ko e ngaahi lea 'eni te u ngaue'aki . Angama'a, angatotonu, faitotonu, molale, mololo, moral, morality, anga fklotu, anga fkkalisitiane etc. 'Oku mahu'inga 'a e 'uhinga 'o e fo'ilea, tatau aipe pe koeha hono sipela. 'Oku ou tui ko 'eku 'comment' palakalafi taha ko'eni 'oku mahino ki he tokolahi, ko e me'a mahu'inga ia . He 'oku 'i ai fa'ahinga 'oku nau fa'a 'comment' hake 'o lau mai kiate au....SAIA.

Kapau 'oku tau taku ko e kakai poto kitautolu pea tau lekooti 'i māmani lahi he fuhifuhi mata'itohi´ 'i ha toe fonua 'o fakatatau ki hotau tokolahi´ pea koehā nai 'oku 'ikai ke tau poto ai mo lava ai 'o talanoa mo fetu'utaki mahino 'i he'etau lea tu'u-fonua´? Koehā nai 'oku 'ikai lava ai 'e hotau 'atamai lelei´ ke fakakaukau'i ha ngaahi lea Tonga mo ha ngaahi fakakaukau faka-Tonga ke fakamatala'i 'aki e me'a 'oku´ te fiema'u ke 'ilo'i 'e he kakai´? Lolotonga pē 'etau talanoa femahino'aki´ he'etau lea´ kuo fakahū mai e ngaahi lea faka-pālangi ia 'o mahino pē ki he konga kae mohemisi e konga ia. Ko e pole ia ki he Tonga kotoa ke tau feinga angē pe 'e lava 'o 'osi ha'atau fo'i sētesi faka-Tonga te'eki ke fakahū ha lea faka-pālangi. 'Oku ou fakamālō heni kia Sione A. Mokofisi 'i he fokotu'u mai 'ene tohi koeni´ he ko e me'a eni ne mau toutou 'ohake pea 'oku mau kei 'ohake pē 'i he Taulanga Tufungalea´ 'i he Tohi'ata´. 'Oku 'auhia 'etau lea faka-Tonga´ he kuo angaua 'i hono 'omai e lea faka-pālangi 'o tuifio ai pea 'ange'ange ia hono faka-Tonga'i e lea 'a e pālangi´. 'Oku 'i ai e fatongia mahu'inga 'o e kau faiongoongo´ 'i hono fakahoko ke mahino e ongoongo´ ki he taha kotoa 'o 'ikai ko e kakai pē 'oku poto 'i he lea faka-pālangi´. Ko e tu'unga leva ia 'oku uesia ai e temokalate´ he 'oku 'ikai a'usia 'e he taha kotoa e mahino tatau ko e tu'u maumau koeni 'a e ngaahi lea faka-pālangi´ 'i hono fio fakataha mo e lea faka-Tonga´. 'Oku hangehangē leva ia ko e toki ngāue'aki pē 'e taha e lea faka-Tonga´ kapau 'oku 'ikai poto he lea faka-pālangi´. Tokua 'oku 'ikai lava ia 'o fetu'utaki ke mahino 'ene talanoa´ 'i he lea faka-Tonga´. 'Oku tau 'unu atu leva kitautolu heni mei he fakapikopiko´ ki he tō nounou faka'atamai pea toe faka'ofa ange kapau ko e sio lalo mo e ta'etoka'i 'o 'etau lea´. Ko kita pē te te mahu'inga'ia he'ete lea´ pea kapau 'oku´ te pehē ke fakamahu'inga'i 'aki 'ete lea tu'u-fonua´ e lea 'a e pālangi´ mo e fakakaukau 'a e pālangi´ pea ko fē leva kita ia? Ko 'eku lea tu'u-fonua´ ko hoku uho´ ia.

Kapau 'oku taku ko e kakai poto kitautolu, koeha hono 'uhinga 'e ui kitautolu ko e kakai vale kapau 'e hu hake ha fo'ilea faka-papalangi 'i ha fakamatala 'aha faiongoongo ke fakamahino'i 'aki 'ene poini?. 'Oku ako'i malohi 'a e lea faka-papalangi 'i he ngaahi ako 'i Tonga koe'uhi ke ua 'aki mo tokoni ki he lea faka-Tonga. Kapau na'e 'ilo 'ehe pule'anga 'e angaua 'a e lea faka-Tonga he ngaue 'a e lea faka-pilitania, he 'ikai 'ako'i 'a e lea koia 'i Tonga. Kapau 'e pehe, mahalo 'e angateau 'a e lea faka'-Amelika ia, he 'oku kakato heni 'a e ngaahi lea kotoape 'o mamani. 'Oku ou tohi faka-Tonga ma'u pe, he 'oku ou 'ofa he lea faka-Tonga. Pea 'oku totonu ke fakalele mo e Taulanga Tufungalea 'i he Tohi'ata he 'oku fu'u mahu'inga ki he fonua. Ka ko e me'a mahu'inga, ka 'i ai ha fakamatala, ongoongo, komeni etc. pea tau tomu'a fekumi ki hono 'uhinga, he ko e kakai poto 'a Tonga. 'Oua 'ita ka 'asi ai ha fo'i lea fk-Pilitania, he 'oku takitaha fa'iteliha pe ki he'ene founga lipooti. Toki fai fakatonutonu sipela, kalama etc kiha feitu'u kehe. Kapau 'oku uesia 'a e temokalati 'i he 'asi ha ki'i fo'ilea faka-papalangi he lipooti 'a e kau faiongoongo. Tapu ange mo Mokofisi, ko 'ene fakamatala kotoape, 'oku ou sai'ia mo ako mei ai. Ka ko e me'a, he 'oku ou toe ta'utu au mo 'eku tikisinali he houa 2 'o feinga ke u mahino'i 'ene ngaahi fo'ilea fk-Pilitania mamafa......SAIA

Mālō Saia. 'Oku faka'ofo'ofa pē e lea faka-pālangi´ ia 'iate ia pē. Pea ko e lahi ange 'ete poto 'i ha lea muli ko e fakakoloa ange ia mo fakalahi 'ilo kiate kita. Ka 'oku 'i ai e feitu'u mo e taimi 'o e lea kotoa. 'Oku faingata'a ke te lau ha nusipepa faka-pālangi 'oku toe fakahū mai 'e he fai ongoongo pālangi´ ha lea faka-Siamane pe faka-Falanisē. Pe te tau mamata ki he lau ongoongo mai 'a ha pālangi he fakamafola'ata´ 'oku toe kote faka-Siapani mai pe faka-Siaina, 'ikai 'oku lea faka-pālangi pē he ko e lea ia 'oku lea'aki 'e he kakai hono fonua´. 'Oku kehe atu pē 'a e kakai Tonga´ ia he neongo e manumanutamaki hono fakahū mai 'a e lea faka-pālangi´ he lolotonga e lau mai ha ongoongo pe ko ha tohi mai ha fakamatala, 'oku kei kīkīvoi pē tokotaha ia ko ia´. 'Oku 'ikai ko ha ngāue ia 'a ha taha taukei mo pāte'i ngāue 'i hono mala'e pea 'oku 'ikai fa'iteliha ia ki he tafa'aki ko ia´ he kuo 'osi ako'i e kau faiongoongo´ 'i he lea, 'i he tohi, 'i he faka'eke'eke mo e hā fua. Pea kapau 'oku 'ikai hoa 'enau fakahoko fatongia´ mo e me'a ne ako'i ki ai kinautolu´ pehē ki he 'amanaki 'oku tuku atu kiate kinautolu´ 'oku 'i ai leva e tō nounou pea 'i he ngaahi ngāue'anga lahi 'oku lava pē ke fakanofo kinautolu. Kae mahalo 'oku tali pē ia 'e he kakai Tonga tokolahi he ko e talu 'etau tupu hake mo hono tala ko e lelei taha´ pē e me'a 'a e pālangi´. Pea neongo 'oku tau laukau'aki 'a Tonga ko e fonua na'e 'ikai mole ki ha fonua muli, ka kuo kolonia 'etau lea´ he kuo 'auhia mo angaua 'i hono pule'i 'e he lea 'a e pālangi´ 'i he'etau fakangofua pē 'e tautolu. Fakatauange ke tau fakatau'atāina'i 'etau lea tu'ufonua´ mo tanumaki ke tupulekina 'o tu'uloa ke 'oua mo'ulaloa ki ha lea muli.