Yes, Kates, we have our own language! Well, I’m sure after reading this site you already knew that. But I mean that there really is an official language that carries our wonderful name. Kâte gained wide currency as a lingua franca in the Huon region of Papua New Guinea, at one time spoken by as many as 80,000.
Okay, so 80K may not seem like a lot in comparison to languages spoken by millions (or in the case of Chinese, billions). But Kâte—once a little known language of the mountains to the northeast of Finschhafen on the Huon Penninsula of Papua Island—was originally spoken by fewer than 700 people. It quickly grew in use as missionaries, who founded the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Papua New Guinea, set up schools and other missionary activities in the area. Eager to work with (and convert) the locals, the missionaries learned Kâte and began formally teaching it in the schools they set up.
War, destruction and changes in culture around the world between the 1940s and the 1960s led to the decline of the use of the language. The schools that taught Kâte closed and other tongues became the preference. Kâte did remain widely used for religious purposes through the late 1980s. But today, only 6,000 people speak the language.
Still, Kâte was instrumental in allowing missionaries to work closely with the peoples of the region. The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Papua New Guinea still simply refers to the area as the “Kate District.”
Anyone up for a trip to New Guinea?