Maori lessons in the of­fice

The Hastings Mail - - FRONT PAGE - LAURA DOONEY

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.’’

PHOTO: LAURA DOONEY/STUFF

Tane Hu­ata, 27, has started teach­ing his col­leagues how to speak te reo Maori, by send­ing emails out to his work­mates every Tues­day.

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