The Paradox of English in Tonga: Attributed Status vs. Social Aversion
Tuitavuki, Pauline; Hawkins, John
My research took place among young adult Tongans, ages 18-30 on the main island of Nuku'alofa in the last remaining Pacific Kingdom of Tonga where Tongan and English are both recognized as official languages. Previous research in Tonga shows that robust sectors of the economy, involving business, tourism, and education, requires English language proficiency for good employment. Consequently, Tongans highly esteem English proficiency, although my experience revealed English practically non-existent in daily communication. Why? Divulging, interviewing, and surveying the impacts of English, past, present, and future, presented three main reasons for social aversion toward speaking English which for them, often outweigh the positive connections of it. Those reasons: (1) public mockery, even for minuscule mistakes; (2) linked with snobbery as speaking English flaunts connections outside of Tonga, and most importantly; (3) speaking English differentiates you from the community which opposes a core Tongan value of group orientation.