Haere mai Akiko, welcome to te reo
USING te reo in the community is not only this year’s theme for Maori Language Week, it’s a life-long aspiration for Akiko Maruno who says “practice makes perfect”.
As a Japanese language teacher at Kaipara College, the opportunity to become a home room teacher in the school’s whanau class prompted her to learn Maori.
In February she enrolled in Unitec’s free evening classes and has progressed confidently on to level two.
“When I became a whanau class teacher, I was desperate to pick up some reo. Now I feel it is crucial and significant for me to learn, so I can communicate more in an effective way to my students,” she says.
“It’s good to make myself understood and it’s opened different perspectives for me. It’s not like anything I’ve learned before.”
The Blockhouse Bay resident, who fell in love with New Zealand as a visiting schoolgirl from Kurashikia Japan, has also adopted some of her Unitec tutors’ teaching methods for use in her own class.
“It’s wonderful. I can take my classroom study and put it into practice straight away. From a student’s perspective it’s shown me how, as a teacher, I can assist my Japanese language classes as well.”
Kaipara College deputy principal Bruce Greenbrook says Ms Maruno is always learning as much as she can about the Maori language to fulfil her new roles and responsibilities.
“Whaea Akiko has fitted in really well. Like all things she gets involved in, she takes it very seriously.”
Ministry of Maori Development statistics from 2006 show that Ms Maruno is part of just 1 percent of nonMaori in New Zealand who have conversational abilities in te reo Maori.
Less than 3 percent of Auckland’s total population, comprising of 27,900 Maori and 6,390 non-Maori, are proficient speakers.
Maori Language Commissioner Erima Henare says Auckland has the second lowest rate of all regions, with almost 20 percent of Auckland’s Maori population able to converse in te reo.
“These are sobering statistics. Auckland has the highest population of Maori, so one would expect that higher numbers would mean a higher percentage rate, if not the highest percentage rate of the regions,” he says.
“It only further highlights what’s happening nationally, that there are far too few proficient speakers.”
Mr Henare encourages everybody to celebrate and promote te reo use everyday as complacency is the biggest enemy to the language’s revitalisation, he says.
“We’ve recently begun a research project in Auckland to investigate more clearly what kind of language initiatives and environments work in an urban setting to create speakers.”
Maori language week runs until Saturday.
For more information visit www.koreromaori. co.nz
Korero Maori: Japanese teacher Akiko Maruno is studying second-level te reo Maori at Unitec as part of her own professional and personal development.