For te wiki o te Reo Māori, two of our people share their te Reo Māori journeys.
I first became interested in learning te reo Māori when I was training to be a teacher in the late 1980s. I took some classes at Teacher’s College. They were mostly focused on commands and instructions and some waiata, haka, and poi activities we could use with students.
I dipped in and out of using te reo Māori when I started teaching, often depending on the culture and expectations of my school and the response of my students (not always positive!). Everything I did was by rote and I was never taught any grammar or how to produce my own sentences.
About ten years ago, all the staff at my school were involved in te reo Māori professional development. In these classes, the kaiako started unpacking the grammar in the sentences we were learning and kua taka te kapa/the penny dropped. That year I started using more te reo in my classroom. My students and I started the day with a karakia, we learned simple classroom vocabulary, and I used the commands I’d learned in the late 1980s, but this time I knew exactly what I was saying and why.
I was lucky enough to start working here at NZCER where te reo Māori classes were offered to us. I immediately signed up and the classes built on the professional development I had just completed. My knowledge and understanding just took off.
Learning te reo Māori has had so many benefits for me, both personally and professionally. I love learning about how other cultures view the world and learning te reo Māori has given me the opportunity to understand more about te ao Māori. I certainly have to step out of my comfort zone at times, but I’ve learned to embrace that feeling and enjoy the satisfaction of learning something new and putting it in practice. I am fortunate that I work with fluent reo speakers who are more than willing to help a beginner make themselves understood. Our weekly waiata sessions are a time to practice pronunciation, learn new vocabulary, and make connections. Learning te reo Māori has opened up opportunities that help me feel I am honouring my role as a member of a bicultural nation. I’ve been able to welcome visitors and introduce speakers at hui and conferences, I’ve been involved in the development of NZCER’s Mahere Māori/Māori Language Plan, and I’ve been able to take part in research projects about te reo Māori, which would not have been possible without having learned te reo.
Learning te reo Māori has enriched my life. I am excited to see the language becoming a more normal part of the New Zealand landscape, and I’d like to think that my learning and using the language is a small contribution to its revitalisation.
Mai i te kōpae ki te urupa, tatou ako tonu ai. From the cradle to the grave we are forever learning.
Ko Teresa tōku ingoa.
He kairangahau au.
Nō Ingarangi, nō Wēra hoki ōku tipuna
He Pākehā au, he tangata tiriti au
I tipu ake au i te rohe o Te Ati Awa, i Ngāmotu
Ko Taranaki te maunga
Ko Waitara te awa
Ināianei, e noho ana au i Te Whanganui a tara
Ko Jo MacDonald tōku ingoa
He kairangahau matua au
He kaimahi ahau i te Runanga Rangahau Matauranga o Aotearoa, ki NZCER
I’ve had a few opportunities to learn basic te reo Māori over the years, taking 3rd form Māori in 1984, learning a bit more at teacher education in the early 1990s, and doing a beginner course in the mid-2000s when I returned from a decade overseas. It was mostly by rote, I never actively sought opportunities to use what I learnt, and nothing really stuck.
That all changed a few years ago when I started learning through work, once a week. I’ve since expanded that to a second lesson a week, with a group of learners all motivated to accelerate our progress and find more opportunities to kōrero Māori. For the first time I’ve actually started to produce language and have basic conversations with people around me. It makes such a difference working with fluent reo Māori speakers and having lots of other learners at NZCER. Although progress can feel very slow, Mahuru Māori and Te Wiki o te Reo Māori each year is a time for me to reflect on how far I’ve come and celebrate the reo. Kia kaha te reo Māori.