TE REO’S FRONT LINE

Pre­sen­ters bring­ing Ma¯ori lan­guage into the main­stream en­dure tor­rents of abuse for their trou­ble. Glenn McCon­nell re­ports.

Sunday News - - NEWS -

DUN­CAN Garner, a for­mer po­lit­i­cal ed­i­tor turned ra­dio and tele­vi­sion host, is not usu­ally shy of air­ing his opin­ions. But when, to start Ma¯ori Lan­guage Week on Monday, he told view­ers that te reo should be taught in all pri­mary schools, that’s when Garner says peo­ple started to lose it.

‘‘I got emails that would be the most abu­sive I’ve re­ceived all year from New Zealan­ders who ef­fec­tively treated me as a war crim­i­nal,’’ he says.

His short ed­i­to­rial was not re­ceived well by many of the view­ers at home, lead­ing Garner – whose daugh­ters both speak the lan­guage flu­ently – to say he doesn’t think the au­di­ence will ap­pre­ci­ate more te reo Ma¯ori in the me­dia.

‘‘It’s sad be­cause it’s a taonga, it is a trea­sure. And once we lose it, it’s gone mate.’’

He replied to only one of the dozens of emails.

‘‘This one per­son, who I con­sider a coward, a com­plete coward, ripped into me like I was some sort of war crim­i­nal or sick in­truder be­cause I sup­ported my girls.

‘‘What’s bad about it? The only bad bit, I think, is the dis­gust­ing re­sponse. These emails, it’s like I was a mass mur­derer by sup­port­ing the lan­guage.’’

She’s not flu­ent, but host of The Project Kanoa Lloyd says there is no ex­cuse for broad­cast­ers get­ting it wrong.

Lloyd says she was lucky to have slightly more ex­po­sure to te reo Ma¯ori than many, as she spent a year at ko¯hanga reo and at­tended a pri­mary school that she says val­ued the lan­guage.

But grow­ing up, the only phrases Lloyd says were truly etched into her mind were those from her dad telling her off.

‘‘Kia tu¯pato,’’ those two words, ‘‘be care­ful’’, have stuck around in Lloyd’s mind from her child­hood.

‘‘Every broad­caster is prob­a­bly on a sim­i­lar level to me,’’ she says. ‘‘For some peo­ple, the rea­son I think they don’t learn Ma¯ori is be­cause they’re afraid of it. They’re afraid, maybe that they’ll get it wrong. I know that feel­ing, it’s a hor­ri­ble feel­ing when you’re scared of get­ting some­thing wrong.’’

Her ad­vice? ‘‘There’s this web­site, Google dot co dot NZ. It’s re­ally good.’’

It’s ob­vi­ous, she says, when peo­ple are try­ing. ‘‘There will be this lit­tle mi­cro-pause right be­fore they’re about to speak, and when I hear that, my heart is just with them.’’

Break­fast pre­sen­ter Jack Tame says it’s not a crime to pro­nounce te reo wrong, ‘‘but I do think it’s a crime not to at least try’’.

Raised in Christchurch, the son of two European im­mi­grants, Tame had lit­tle to do with Te Ao Ma¯ori grow­ing up but now he’s one of the Ma¯ori Lan­guage Com­mis­sion’s poster boys.

He’s spent the week be­ing an of­fi­cial rep­re­sen­ta­tive for te reo, and Min­is­ter for Ma¯ori Devel­op­ment Te Ururoa Flavell is one of his best Twit­ter pals af­ter prais­ing Tame for his use of te reo Ma¯ori on air.

‘‘The truth is, none of us speak flu­ent te reo but ev­ery­one on Break­fast feels the same way about try­ing to use a bit on air and try­ing to nor­malise it a bit. We all see our­selves as hav­ing a re­spon­si­bil­ity on that front,’’ he says.

Tame ad­mits some TVNZ view­ers ask him why he isn’t work­ing for Ma¯ori Tele­vi­sion.

‘‘There are a lot of peo­ple in my po­si­tion who want to em­brace the lan­guage, as well as Ma¯ori, and I think that’s what we need,’’ Tame says, adding he’s em­bar­rassed how much praise he’s re­ceived.

‘‘The amount of notes we get from peo­ple just de­lighted to hear some reo, shows just how much te reo has been miss­ing from New Zealand tele­vi­sion.’’

The is­sue with Ma¯ori Lan­guage Week, crit­ics point out, is that it is only a week. What about the other 51?

On Morn­ing Re­port, co-host Guyon Espiner sees the ab­sur­dity of the fact that if the lan­guage is only no­table for a week it will never thrive. Which is why, since this time last year, the re­porters on RNZ haven’t stopped sign­ing off in te reo.

‘‘The cool thing about Te Wiki o te Reo Ma¯ori is you get an ex­cuse to use it even more.’’ And so each year, his chal­lenge is to add more.

When Espiner first started his role, he im­me­di­ately made an im­pact by adding longer and dif­fer­ent mihi to start the show. That’s when ‘‘the ugly strand’’ of lis­ten­ers tell him he’s ‘‘talk­ing gib­ber­ish’’.

‘‘Each time I push the boat out way.’’

It’s like I was a mass mur­derer by sup­port­ing the lan­guage.’ DUN­CAN GARNER

Guyon Espiner, Dun­can Garner and Jack Tame have all sup­ported Ma¯ori Lan­guage Week.

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