Massey leader learns te reo M¯aori
‘‘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.’’