Maori lan­guage a key part of who we are

Jamie Wall ex­plains why Te Reo is so im­por­tant to him and why we should learn it.

The Tribune (NZ) - - BACKYARD BANTER -

We’ve got a lot to be proud of as New Zealan­ders, so it’s im­por­tant to cel­e­brate the things that make us unique on the world stage.

We have our beau­ti­ful scenery, na­tive flora and fauna, and a rugby team that hardly ever loses. But there’s one cul­tural as­pect that we pos­sess right here that you can’t find any­where else.

The Maori lan­guage is an es­sen­tial part of who we are, whether you can fully flu­ent or can barely say ‘‘kia ora’’. Chances are you come across it on a daily ba­sis or grew up in a town with a Te Reo place name.

Look­ing around any city you’ll see it on signs and other of­fi­cial doc­u­ments, as it should be as an of­fi­cial lan­guage of this coun­try.

As some­one who iden­ti­fies as Maori, I feel more than a wee bit em­bar­rassed about the fact that I have lit­tle knowl­edge of how to speak or read it my­self. It’s not be­cause I wasn’t given the op­por­tu­ni­ties, it sim­ply wasn’t on my radar grow­ing up.

How­ever, since I was a kid there has been a def­i­nite shift in at­ti­tudes to get pro­nun­ci­a­tion right – you can hear it on the news and through other of­fi­cial chan­nels. Of course, many peo­ple have grown up hear­ing the in­cor­rect pro­nun­ci­a­tion of these places, so it’s only nat­u­ral for them to keep on with that habit

Get­ting it right is re­ally im­por­tant. Lan­guage is the most ef­fec­tive way of pre­serv­ing a cul­ture, so get­ting it right now means chil­dren can grow up learn­ing the place names you’ll never find any­where else. There’s an Auck­land in Eng­land, a Hamil­ton in Canada, but you won’t find a Whanganui or Taupo any­where else in the world.

Te Reo is a won­der­ful in­tro­duc­tory lan­guage for chil­dren as well, as the pho­netic struc­ture is rel­a­tively easy to learn. This in­ter­est in bilin­gual­ism will go a long way to fur­ther­ing their devel­op­ment in lan­guage; you only need to look to Europe to see how wide­spread that skill is. Most ed­u­cated Euro­peans are well versed in an­other lan­guage, of­ten English, so the habit of learn­ing an­other tongue aids them in their trav­els.

As well as in school, there are many Maori lan­guage courses in most com­mu­ni­ties for peo­ple of all ages. It’s a great way to come to­gether and be a part of New Zealand’s own unique cul­ture and cross paths with other mem­bers of your com­mu­nity that you might oth­er­wise never meet.

It also means you can con­fi­dently rep­re­sent the unique Maori cul­ture we have wher­ever you go, whether it’s the other side of the world or just down to the dairy.

Jamie Wall: ‘‘Lan­guage is the most ef­fec­tive way of pre­serv­ing a cul­ture.’’

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