Maori should be compulsory
Make the Maori language compulsory, and the sooner the better. If we don’t take urgent action the language is in danger of dying.
Certainly that’s the warning from chief Maori language commissioner Erima Henare, who said at the start of this week’s Maori Language Week – Te Wiki o te Reo Maori – that although he applauded the efforts to promote Maori, the language was discouraged for a good part of the 20th century and was still in danger.
He says complacency is the enemy of language revitalisation, and just because there’s Maori on TV, radio and in schools, doesn’t mean the language is secure.
His warning demands a radical response.
Millions of dollars are spent on Maori language projects but if you listen to mainstream radio or TV you might think not one cent had been committed.
Maori language is mispronounced daily, not just on small radio or TV channels but on networks like Radio NZ, TVNZ and TV3.
And while top broadcasters like Simon Dallow, John Campbell and National Radio’s Geoff Robinson make a big effort, their attempts are negated by fools like Leighton Smith, Paul Henry and Michael Laws who don’t give a damn about pronouncing Maori correctly.
The best way to respond is through reform in the education system, which is ironic given that system eroded the language.
Maori language must be a core subject in the curriculum, like English and maths, not an addon.
I’ve heard the nutty arguments about why it’s wrong for Maori to be compulsory, but the reality is English is compulsory, as is maths, so why not Maori? Maori is our indigenous language and an official one alongside English.
All Kiwi kids should be given the opportunity to learn Maori from an early age.
Being bilingual or multilingual has been proven to be advantageous. Children who speak more than one language are likely to perform better at school, be more socially adjusted in and out of school, and more tolerant and understanding of cultural differences.
In a global society those are the attributes our children need and learning Maori will help them acquire them.
Maori Language Week is the most appropriate time to raise the idea of making Maori compulsory. It’s time Erima Henare and the commission challenged the government to support te reo Maori being compulsory so that the threat of the language dying disappears.