Nawaqatabu shares her love of language

Paea Nawaqatabu

Fijian polyglot, Paea Nawaqatabu is looking to publish a new Japanese language book for Pacific Islanders.

Learning a new language can be quite a task, so the 27-year-old college student wants to ease the load by making a short, introductory guide.

“As an islander, I struggled learning (Japanese) the first time because I wasn’t a native.” 

Nawaqatabu learnt most of her Japanese skills from scratch and it was very hard, she said.

She told Fiji Traveller: “Perhaps Islanders who’ll get to read my book won’t have to go through the struggle. They can just improve,” she said.

Nawaqatabu is well-versed in English, Fijian, French, Japanese, Korean, and is now learning Chinese at the recommendation of her uncle, who is a diplomat. 

She has published books on Amazon including two Japanese writing practice books and a French storybook about life in Fiji. She is also running a small fan business, in which Fijian fans can be designed bearing Japanese characters.

Her passion for languages developed from friendships and at institutions like Alliance Française over the years. “When I develop a friendship, I want to learn more about them, including their native language. That’s the main reason why I learn new languages.”

Nawaqatabu, a tutor, says: “I got introduced to a Japanese friend through a mutual Korean friend, and she wanted me to teach English to her and her kids. We first started with paid classes. Then, I had this little voice in my head tell me, ‘You should learn Japanese because it’ll help you in the future, don’t receive any money, just tell her to teach you Japanese in exchange for English.’ Since then, that little voice has been guiding me and a lot of people, even strangers, have been asking me to teach them the Japanese language.”

The young entrepreneur has co-hosted two successful language exchange events. In 2021, she collaborated with KB Rugby Academy and the University of the South Pacific’s Innovation Hub for a 4-day program where she taught Basic Japanese Hiragana.

She also conducted a two-day Korean language program with the Korean Embassy in Fiji, saying: “It was a short yet tough project compared to the Japanese program I conducted earlier in the year, but I learnt strengths and weaknesses from organising such an event. The Embassy provided books and the participants were so excited to receive them”. 

Nawaqatabu expects to run a beta reader program on her upcoming Japanese book.

She says, “I’ve spoken with USP and they’re happy to collaborate again with my beginner’s level Japanese book program at the end of the school semester. 

“The program will focus on my beta readers. My beta readers are very important because they will help me to improve the quality of my book content. Their feedback is very important. 

“I can see a lot of Pacific Islanders are interested in learning Japanese so that is what’s pushing me to get things done.

Writer: Kite Pareti

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