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Tongan context elaborations

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Tongan L6: Context elaborations

Students are expected to communicate information, ideas, and opinions, and express and respond to personal ideas and opinions in areas of most immediate relevance. The content and language of the communication is targeted beyond the immediate context to include the expression of opinions. Students are expected to understand and produce a variety of text types.

Example 1: Telephone conversation

Paula — Heleine, malō ho ‘o lelei. Ko au Paula. ‘Oku ke fēfē hake ki he ‘aho´ ni?

Helen — Hei, Paula! ‘Oku ou sai ‘aupito he taimi´ ni. Fēfē koe?

Paula — Sai pē mo au. Te ke ha ‘u ki he sosiale´ he pō Tu ‘apulelulu ‘o e uike´ ni?

Helen — (ki ‘i fakalongolongo) … Koe hā ‘oku ke ‘eke ai´?

Paula — Ko e me ‘a´ he ‘oku ou ‘alu. Te ke fie ‘alu mo au!

Helen — ‘Oi, ‘oku ou fie ‘alu. Fēfē keu tomu ‘a talanoa ki he ‘eku mami´?

Paula — ‘Io, sai pē ia.

Helen — Te u toki tā atu ‘o tala atu pe ‘e loto ‘eku mami ki ai? Ka ‘oku ou tui ‘e fiemālie pe ki ai. ‘Oku ke pehe ‘e tokolahi?

Paula — ‘Oku ou fanongo ‘e tokolahi.

Helen — Fakalata! Ta toki talanoa. Nofo ā.

Context and text type

A phone conversation between two friends. The boy, Paula, invites Helen, a learner of the Tongan language, to attend the school social with him. Paula is a native speaker of Tongan and not yet confident conversing in English.

Text type

Phone conversation, informal. Interactive.

Examples showing how the student is:

Communicating information, ideas, and opinions beyond the immediate context

Helen responds to Paula’s invitation to the school social by accepting it:

  • ‘Oku ou fie ‘alu.

Helen advises that she will seek her mother’s opinion about Paula’s invitation:

  • Fēfē keu tomu ‘a talanoa ki he ‘eku mami?

Helen offers to tell Paula of her mother’s decision:

  •  Te u to ki tā atu ‘o talaatu pe ‘e loto ‘eku mami ki ai?

Expressing and responding to personal ideas and opinions

Helen assumes that her mother will be supportive of Paula’s invitation:

  • ‘Oku ou tui au ‘e fiemālie pe kiai.

Helen responds with an expression of surprise:

  • ‘Oi! because she did not expect Paula’s invitation.

She asks Paula if there will be many people at the social: 

  • ‘Oku ke pehe ‘e tokolahi?

On hearing his estimate, she expresses her feelings:

  • Fakalata!

Communicating appropriately in different situations

Helen responds to and uses conventions that are appropriate in phone conversations. These include formulaic expressions such as:

  •  ‘Oku ou sai pe and Fēfē koe?

Helen responds appropriately to Paula’s greeting at the start of the conversation:

  • ‘Oku ou sai ‘aupito he taimi´ ni.

Helen uses the correct farewell for the person who remains behind:

  • Nofo ā.

Helen uses the correct singular possessive pronouns when referring to herself and to Paula; for example:

  • ‘Oku ou, ‘Oku ke.

At one point Helen hesitates, uncertain how to respond (ki ‘i fakalongolongo). Hesitation and silence are common in conversations, indicating reflection, thinking of an appropriate response.

Notice that Paula addresses Helen by the Tongan version of her name: Heleine. This could be subconscious, as he is a fluent speaker of the language, but it could equally be that he is acknowledging her efforts to speak Tongan and wants to be inclusive.

Understanding how language is organised for different purposes

The speakers use lea tavale (everyday language). For example, Paula uses the word ‘alu (Te ke fie ‘alu mo au!). ‘Alu takes on different forms depending on the social context; for example, in 'lea fakamatāpule, faka ‘au', ā is used instead.

The stress patterns of spoken language are indicated by the use of the definitive accent. For example, when Paula refers to a particular social at a particular time:

  • Te ke ha ‘u ki he sosiale´ he pō Tu ‘apulelulu ‘o e uike´ ni?

Helen uses single words or phrases instead of sentences to express her feelings:

  • Fakalata! Ta toki talanoa.

Helen and Paula mostly use the present tense and simple sentence structures, though they do use ‘oku to express the immediate future (for example, 'Koe ha ‘oku ke ‘eke ai´? ‘Oku ou sai pē'.). These are features of informal conversations.

Paula uses the word sosiale, which is a transliteration of 'social':

  • Te ke ha ‘u ki he sosiale´ he pō Tu ‘apulelulu ‘o e uike´ ni?

Transliterations are often used in lea faka-Tonga, particularly for words or concepts that do not have local equivalents.

Both Paula and Helen use mami for Helen’s mother, as is typical in informal contexts. Other words for one’s own mother or someone else’s mother are used in contexts that require different levels of formality and respect.

Opportunities for developing intercultural communicative competence

Explore cultural values, practices, and expectations associated with social events in Tongan and other cultures. Find similarities and differences.

Explore different ways of referring (both orally and in writing) to family members (own and others’) in lea faka-Tonga and in English. What similarities and differences are there? What values are revealed by these usages? How could students use the knowledge they have gained to enhance their use of language and their behaviour when interacting with others in lea faka-Tonga?

Compare and contrast Tongan greetings and farewells in a range of texts and contexts, both formal and informal:

  • Relate these to English greetings and farewells (and to those used in other cultures).
  • How do the forms of greetings and farewells used indicate the relationship of the participants?
  • What social level of language is being used, and how can you tell?
  • How might a learner of Tongan use this knowledge to communicate with speakers of lea faka-Tonga?

Last updated March 27, 2013