Massey leader learns te reo M¯aori

Manawatu Standard - - NEWS - KIRSTY LAWRENCE

‘‘Peo­ple help me when I’m in the cafes, ev­ery­one has been re­ally great with it.’’ Vice-chan­cel­lor Pro­fes­sor Jan Thomas

As if mov­ing to a new coun­try and tak­ing up the reins of one of the coun­try’s largest ter­tiary or­gan­i­sa­tions wasn’t enough, Massey Univer­sity’s vice-chan­cel­lor has thrown learn­ing te reo Ma¯ ori into the mix.

Pro­fes­sor Jan Thomas, an Aus­tralian with a a back­ground in science, de­cided to give learn­ing te reo a go when she was ap­pointed to the vice-chan­cel­lor po­si­tion in Jan­uary.

‘‘As a mid­dle aged per­son who has never learnt an­other lan­guage, ac­tu­ally learn­ing [is a chal­lenge].

‘‘It feels like you’re kind of break­ing away the rust in your brain.’’

Thomas has thrown her­self into les­sons, meet­ing once a week with se­nior lec­turer Hone Morris, as well as set­ting her­self home­work.

When­ever she gets the op­por­tu­nity, she also lis­tens to te reo on CDS in her car and at home.

‘‘Peo­ple help me when I’m in the cafes. Ev­ery­one has been re­ally great with it.

‘‘I also sit down and try and have cof­fee with peo­ple who are flu­ent to speak noth­ing but te reo.’’

While she didn’t think peo­ple were sur­prised by her de­ci­sion to learn Ma¯ ori, Thomas thought the depth to which she wanted to un­der­stand it was more than some ex­pected.

‘‘I think peo­ple are re­ally pleased I want to en­gage in this way.’’

Even though it was chal­leng­ing, Thomas was en­joy­ing it. ‘‘It’s such a beau­ti­ful lan­guage.’’ Af­ter nine months, she can un­der­stand what peo­ple say to her, but cre­at­ing a re­ply was dif­fi­cult, she said.

‘‘Be­ing able to con­verse in an im­promptu way is dif­fi­cult be­cause I have to pre­pare my mind for a few sen­tences.

‘‘There’s a con­fi­dence thing in that to.’’

Thomas en­cour­aged oth­ers who had thought about learn­ing Ma¯ ori to give it a go, but said it was all about per­sonal de­vel­op­ment for her.

‘‘I’m do­ing this for my own per­sonal ben­e­fit and if other peo­ple want to do it, that’s great.’’

Within five years, Thomas said, she wanted to be able to speak te reo flu­ently, but she had small goals to get her there.

‘‘I want to be able to ex­plain my­self flu­ently [in con­ver­sa­tion] with­out pre­par­ing be­fore­hand.’’

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