Maori lessons in the office
Tane Huata is on a mission – to break stereotypes surrounding Maori and help non-Maori get a better understanding of his culture, by teaching them the language.
The 27-year-old accountant at Staples Rodway in Hastings was inspired to start a weekly email introducing his colleagues to basic words and phrases in te reo after seeing a video on social media highlighting how many Maori names and places were mispronounced.
Every Tuesday for the past two months he has sent the email out with the phonetic pronunciation of the word or phrase, and examples of how to use them. The company is now considering rolling out the initiative nationally.
Huata believed race problems in New Zealand could be addressed through understanding each other better, and wants to break down negative stereotypes surrounding Maori.
‘‘Initiatives like this are not too common in New Zealand. What I’m doing with this is offering tools, as non-Maori either you don’t want to do it, or you don’t have the tools.’’
Huata stressed the importance of trying to pronounce words properly.
‘‘Something as small as pronunciation can seem trivial, but that small difference in pronunciation does make a world of difference. When someone you’ve never met before who’s non-Maori pronounces your name properly, it makes a big difference.’’
Philip Pinckney, a director at Staples Rodway, said the emails created a ‘‘bit of banter around the office’’ and said even if people felt they weren’t ‘‘that flash’’ at speaking Maori, they were in a supportive environment to give it a go.
Pinckney had felt selfconscious using what Huata had taught him at first, but said using it every day made it easier, and said signing off an email with a ‘‘nga¯ mihi’’ was easy to do, but showed some understanding.
Huata agreed people were shy at first, and hesitant to ask for help, but since the emails started going around people in his team had been using the language more often, with ‘ata marie’ replacing the usual ‘good morning’.
Huata plans to test his colleagues next week, Maori Language Week, by interviewing one of them in te reo to see how they go speaking the language.
For Huata, being able to speak Maori at work gave him the feeling that people were willing to cater to different cultures, and accept different cultures as their own.
‘‘So many people, they’ll go to France or Spain and ask how to order a beer, but don’t know how to order a beer in Maori.’’
Tane Huata, 27, has started teaching his colleagues how to speak te reo Maori, by sending emails out to his workmates every Tuesday.