Tag Archives: UC Māori

Reo Tū, Reo Ora: 35 years of Māori Language Revival

It’s been 35 years since the first kōhanga reo opened in 1982 and now our second and third generations of children are growing up amid a myriad of changing revitalisation initiatives. University of Canterbury Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha Associate Professor Jeanette King of Aotahi: School of Māori and Indigenous Studies looks at what’s happening, what’s working and where are we headed?


A lot is happening with regard to te reo Māori, the indigenous language of our country. Revitalisation may have started 35 years ago with kōhanga reo and hundreds of children and their parents taking a few shaky footsteps on a path to learn te reo, but, as a result, today we have many language initiatives playing a role in encouraging and supporting language use.

Māori immersion education options – from pre-school through to tertiary level – are available throughout the country. For adults who don’t know any reo there are many options, many of them free. (Check out the websites for Te Ataarangi and Te Wānanga o Aotearoa if you want to get started.) For those who want to advance their intermediate and higher level language skills, many tribes supply language resources and host activities to help tribal members increase their knowledge and use of Māori. We also have iwi radio stations and Māori Television which have a great range of programming focusing on Māori language and culture.

Since the mid-90s, however, it was realised that the emphasis on education and broadcasting initiatives wasn’t enough: we needed to encourage the use of Māori in the home. Since then both government agencies and increasing numbers of tribal authorities have formed language plans and initiatives to support parents in the home.

A good example comes from Ngāi Tahu – they aim to have 1000 Ngāi Tahu homes speaking Māori by 2025 (Kotahi Mano Kāika, Kotahi Mano Wawata). They provide resources and information to their tribal members as well as running regular language camps for parents and children. Ka mau te wehi! That’s outstanding!

What have we learned?

There isn’t one solution that will guarantee the revitalisation of the Māori language. Instead, we need a wide range of different sectors engaged, as well as a regular input of fresh ideas. For example, Te Taura Whiri i Te Reo Māori (the Māori Language Commission) recently began running 2-3 day hui to help people plan language strategies for whatever community group they are working with. Te Taura Whiri also allocates Mā Te Reo funding to support communities to produce language resources or run language workshops. And you may have noticed that Māori Language Week doesn’t just focus on seven days a year; there are new words each week throughout the year. What a great way to build up your vocabulary. (Check out the Taura Whiri website for digital copies of these resources.)

We have also learned that we need to encourage everyone to use what language they have and perhaps make a few steps to learn a little more. This has been termed the ZePA model (Zero > Passive > Active). No matter where you are on this continuum, the idea is to keep right shifting. This week our Prime Minister John Key noted that the exposure he gets to te reo in his job means he’s able to understand more and more of what is being said. He also claims he knows all the Māori words to the national anthem. Ka wani kē! Fabulous!

Uniquely New Zealand

There are a number of aspects that help with the revitalisation of te reo. Unlike other countries which have many indigenous languages, we have just one, which has made it easier to fight and lobby for government acknowledgement and support.

Aspects of Māori culture are also supportive to wider acceptance and use of the Māori language. It is well known that the epitome of Māori cultural expression are the rituals enacted on marae. For well over a century, welcome ceremonies (pōwhiri) have been used to welcome dignitaries and celebrities to Aotearoa. The public and inclusive nature of these ceremonies may be why most of us believe that Māori culture is an important part of what makes New Zealanders unique.

The Māori language has also influenced the variety of English we speak here, New Zealand English. In fact, one of our variety’s most distinctive aspects is its use of Māori words. Besides words for flora and fauna (kauri, pipi, tūī, kiwi) our knowledge of words for social and material culture (hui, kaumātua, whānau, haka, poi, puku) is increasing each year. It’s estimated that the average New Zealander can recognise 70-80 Māori words. Tau kē Aotearoa! Awesome New Zealand!

Where are we headed?

With various tribal organisations now putting energy into language revitalisation the greatest opportunity and challenge in the coming years will be how the focus on dialects contributes to the wider revitalisation efforts.

Positive attitudes towards te reo Māori among our population continue to improve. There is an increasing sense that Māori language is part of our social fabric and identity.

Ākina te reo! Give te reo Māori a go!

Nate explains a famous whakataukī (proverb)

e aha te kai o te rangatira, he kōrero.

This is a famous whakataukī (proverb) amongst the Māori people. It explains that the food of the chiefs is speaking. It describes how Māori can find nourishment in their learning and understanding of new concepts through speaking aloud with each other.

On the marae, there are many opportunities for Māori to work in collaborative situations through wānanga (group discussions) to analyse issues of the day.

In more formal occasions, Māori males show their oratory skills through whai kōrero (formal speeches) at pōwhiri (rituals of encounter ceremony) where first time visitors are welcomed onto the marae (traditional meeting place). In these situations, the tangata whenua (traditional hosts) welcome the visitors tīpuna (ancestors) and make links to their whakapapa (genealogy).

The experience is very spiritual and emotional for people who have never been on the marae before. Oprah Winfrey thoroughly enjoyed herself when she came to Aotearoa last year and visited the marae Tumutumu whenua at Orakei, Tāmakimakaurau (Auckland).

Nā Teariki rāua ko Nate

 – By Nathan Riki

Lecturer promoting te reo on the radio

Esteemed lecturer and coordinator of Te Hōaka Pounamu – Te Hurinui Clarke will be presenting a daily dose of te reo Māori tutorage for the listeners at Te Reo Irirangi o Hokonui ki Hakatere.

The morning breakfast show will be promoting te reo Māori throughout Māori Language Week and will touch upon a variety of interesting topics for how and when to use the language.

Te Hurinui Clarke, who lectures at UC, has an extensive knowledge base of te reo Māori me ōna Tikanga (language customs). He lectures completely in te reo Māori and has specialised knowledge in second language acquisition and mātauranga Māori (Māori epistemology).

Te Hurinui has an infectious sense of humour that makes him a favourite amongst his students within the education department.

Be sure to be listening every morning at 8am for a great show.

Mauri ora!

– by Teariki Tuiono 

Why do we care about te reo Māori here at UC?

Kia ora aku hoa mahi o Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha. Nei rā te mihi ki a koutou i Te Wiki o te Reo Māori.

UC cares about te reo Māori. Why? It is one signal of our commitment to bicultural competence and confidence. UC is committed to our students being biculturally competent and confident when they graduate, and each of us has a role in making that happen.

One way in which each of us can support UC is by taking care with our pronunciation of te reo Māori. It is respectful to take care when saying the names of our students and colleagues (no matter what their heritage). This isn’t always easy! The Office of the AVC Māori will provide you with help with Māori names. The first points of contact are the Kaiārahi Māori for your college or Service Unit, the Learning and Development half-day courses  Te Reo Māori for the Workplace, and the sound files of names at UC, which can be found here: Māori names at UC. These files enable you to practise on your own.

Improving your pronunciation of a new language after puberty is a challenge. Most adults retain an accent from their first language, but with effort and practice and frequent attempts to improve, accents can be minimised. One of my Māori language students in the 1980s said something that has always stuck with me. His words were something like this: “Learning a language well requires you to lower your cultural ego barriers.” Thank you Thana na Nagara for these wise words.

Whakanuia Te Wiki o te Reo Maori 2016

This year, UC will celebrate Te Wiki o te Reo Māori – Māori Language Week over two weeks, from 4 to 15 Hōngongoi – July. The theme is ‘Ākina te Reo’ – behind you all the way, which is about using te reo Māori to support people, to inspire and to cheer on.

Te Wiki o te Reo Māori is an opportunity to embrace te reo and build your bicultural competence and confidence. A range of activities will be happening across campus over the next two weeks.  View the full Te Wiki programme here.

How to get involved

  • Pick up a Free UC Te Reo resource pack. These are available for all staff and students to collect from Monday 4 July. Visit the Māori Development Team Reception, Level Two, Te Ao Mārama building, Arts Road.
  • Find out what’s happening on campus and attend Te Wiki o te Reo Māori events.
  • Check out the new online LEARN page that provides te reo resources and support.
  • Listen to the new sound files on the Ngā Ingoa Māori i Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha webpage. Here you can learn key role and unit names at UC, and how to pronounce them in te reo Māori.
  • Keep an eye on UC’s Facebook and Twitter for words and phrases.
  • Download Te Wiki resources.

Beyond Te Wiki there are many opportunities to further your Māori AVCM5639_Te_Wiki_PROlanguage and culture knowledge at UC, including Tangata Tū, Tangata Ora and Te Reo Māori for the Workplace.

Start this week and use the words you learn in everyday conversation on an ongoing basis.

Kia kaha e hoa mā!