Pa¯keha¯ flock­ing to learn te reo Ma¯ori

Te Awamutu Courier - - News - NA¯ MICHAEL NEIL­SON

Sam Tay­lor dreams of a day when he can walk the streets of Aotearoa and hear te reo Ma¯ ori be­ing spo­ken all around him.

The 33 year old is Pa¯ keha¯ and flu­ent in te reo, and he wants all peo­ple in Aotearoa to take up the chal­lenge.

Sam, from Te Awa­mutu, said his de­sire to learn came from want­ing to rid him­self of a “sense of ig­no­rance” and un­der­stand more about our his­tory.

“It is our duty to the cul­tural land­scape of Aotearoa — plus it is fun and good for your brain.”

Sam, a grad­u­ate of an ad­vanced course at Te Wa¯ nanga O Aotearoa, said it was im­por­tant those who had done begin­ner cour­ses pushed on and in­cor­po­rated te reo into their every­day lives.

“I al­ways start and fin­ish a con­ver­sa­tion with Ma¯ ori, even if is just one word,” said Sam.

“If a per­son speaks some te reo, I drop more into the con­ver­sa­tion, and if they are flu­ent, I only speak te reo.”

Sam prac­tises karakia, wa­iata, and ex­poses him­self to te reo every day to main­tain his flu­ency.

He seeks out con­ver­sa­tions in te reo — even if its chat­ting with his Ma¯ori-speak­ing friends on so­cial me­dia.

Sam, a ses­sion mu­si­cian and au­dio head of de­part­ment at SAE In­sti­tute in Par­nell, has been incorporating this into his work­place.

“Even a sim­ple kia ora. It normalises te reo, and em­pow­ers us all.”

He says be­ing a mu­si­cian has helped him pick up a sec­ond lan­guage, and is now also learn­ing Span­ish.

“Me a¯ta whakarongo e te tu­atahi. Lis­ten­ing care­fully should be the first thing”

“It’s also about analysing what peo­ple are say­ing and hav­ing per­sis­tence.”

Sam’s te reo jour­ney started af­ter he re­turned home from work­ing abroad and felt he needed to deal with a sense of ig­no­rance.

He re-en­rolled at the Univer­sity of Can­ter­bury, and started te reo classes.

“As soon as I started I loved it.”

He later took up a te reo im­mer­sion pro­gramme over sum­mer, be­fore work­ing for five years at Te Wa¯nanga o Aotearoa’s Man­gere cam­pus where he was able to ko¯ rero (speak) Ma¯ ori on a daily ba­sis with co-work­ers.

“There I learned from some of Aotearoa’s finest aca­demics and te reo Ma¯ ori ex­perts.”

“Te reo of­fered a mat­apihi ki te ao Ma¯ori — win­dow into the Ma¯ori world. There is a whole other world go­ing on — with so many songs, say­ings, jokes, ways of life — that so many peo­ple in New Zealand don’t have any idea about.”

The only times he had ever felt un­com­fort­able speak­ing te reo had been around other Pa¯ keha¯ .

Once af­ter play­ing a show he heard an older Pa¯keha¯ man make a racist com­ment about Ma¯ ori.

“I just started speak­ing to him in Ma¯ori. He looked com­pletely be­mused. He tried to say, ‘Oh, I am just jok­ing’, but I kept speak­ing Ma¯ ori to him. Even­tu­ally he apol­o­gised and took it all back. I hope now he re­thinks what he is talking about.”

When Ma¯ori dis­cov­ered he was Pa¯keha¯ and could speak te reo, their re­ac­tions ranged from im­pressed to emo­tion­ally over­whelmed.

“For some kuia and kauma¯ tua it has gone full cir­cle. They had their lan­guage op­pressed, and now here is a white, blue-eyed guy speak­ing Ma¯ ori.”

And Sam’s mono­lin­gual fam­ily in Te Awa­mutu is sup­port­ive.

“My fam­ily is open and will­ing to learn to say things right.”

While he en­cour­aged all Pa¯ keha¯ to learn te reo, Sam said it was im­por­tant not to “re­colonise” the lan­guage.

“I need to ac­knowl­edge all my ka­iako (teach­ers) over the years and their tı¯puna, from whom this pre­cious gift was passed, te¯na¯ ra¯ koutou ka­toa.

“Pa¯keha¯ need to be hum­ble and play a sup­port­ing role.”

He looked for­ward to when Pa¯ keha¯ speak­ing Ma¯ ori was nor­mal and hopes to teach his own chil­dren when he has a fam­ily.

“There is a wave of en­thu­si­asm at the mo­ment, and I would love to see it con­tinue.”

Te reo Ma¯ ori is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a surge in pop­u­lar­ity.

Te Wa¯nanga o Aotearoa ka­iako Ne­tana Matene said more than 3000 peo­ple had al­ready ex­pressed in­ter­est in te reo classes next year.

“It is cool to see that pop­u­lar­ity, and the big­gest growth for us here has been non-Ma¯ori learn­ers,” said Ne­tana.

About 70 per cent of their begin­ner learn­ers were nonMa¯ori, he said. “They have be­come am­bas­sadors of te reo. The re­vi­tal­i­sa­tion of te reo needs to be a coun­try-wide ef­fort. Peo­ple are re­al­is­ing that Ma¯ ori is what makes us unique to every other English-speak­ing coun­try in the world.”

A chal­lenge for Pa¯keha¯ was of­ten pro­nun­ci­a­tion.

“Some Pa¯keha¯ can strug­gle with that, but then ab­sorb the gram­mar re­ally quickly. The class­room is set up as a safe en­vi­ron­ment though, atu­ruhanga, where peo­ple feel safe mak­ing mis­takes.”

“A chal­lenge for all learn­ers was keep­ing it up,” said Ne­tana.

While Kiwis were flock­ing to th­ese begin­ner cour­ses, the per­cent­age of peo­ple who could hold a con­ver­sa­tion in te reo dropped from 4.5 per cent in 2001 to 3.7 in 2013. Ma¯ ori make up 85 per cent of those speak­ers, with only a very small per­cent­age be­ing Pa¯ keha¯ .

Whakaahua / Doug Sher­ring

Sam Tay­lor, from Te Awa­mutu, is Pa¯ keha¯ and flu­ent in te reo Ma¯ ori.

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