Maori should be com­pul­sory

Auckland City Harbour News - - News -

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.

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