Ma¯ ori has gone mainstream
Revival of the Ma¯ori language in New Zealand.
Maoris represent about 15 % of the population in New Zealand. Their culture was repressed to the point of extinction several times when the European settlers came to the islands in the 19th century. It was only in 1987 that Maori became one of the country’s official languages. Times have changed, and now all New Zealanders want to learn to speak it.
Max Smitheram, 54, has attempted to learn te reo Māori (the Māori language) on numerous occasions, but he has never stuck with it – until now. A pakeha [European New Zealander], Smitheram attends free weekly classes and practises at home with his Uruguayan partner, who is also learning the language. “I had a longstanding wish to learn Māori. It is really interesting to have the opportunity to understand different ways of thinking and understand more about my home,” said Smitheram, an environmental planner. 2. Smitherham is not alone. Te reo is undergoing a revival in New Zealand, with jam-packed classes and waiting lists now common. Māori language teachers from Auckland in the North Island to Dunedin and Invercargill in the South say they are unable to meet demand for their services and free classes routinely draw hundreds of students.
A STRIKING COMEBACK
3. John McCaffery, a language expert at the University of Auckland school of education, says the language is thriving, with other indigenous peoples travelling to New Zealand to learn how Māori has made such a striking comeback. “It has been really dramatic, the past three years in particular, Māori has gone mainstream,” he said.
4. According to Statistics New Zealand, the proportion of Māori people able to hold an everyday conversation in te reo decreased 3.7%
between 1996 and 2013. But anecdotal evidence suggests numbers of non-Māori speakers of the language are rising, as are young Māori adults and professionals, who would not have been captured in the last census.
5. Big business is on board, too. Google has launched a Māori version of its website, Vodafone has helped Google Maps record more accurate Māori pronunciations, Disney has released a Māori version of the hit Polynesian film Moana, and Fletcher Building has rolled out bilingual signs on all its construction sites. “There’s an increasing sense that te reo is good for identifying your business as committed to New Zealand,” said Ngahiwi Apanui, chief executive of the Māori Language Commission.
6. The status of te reo as an increasingly admired language – with its speakers garnering respect – is a long way from the period following the second world war when Māori speakers were chastised for using their language. Young Māori recall being beaten or whipped for speaking te reo in schools and government institutions such as orphanages, and at home more Māori gave up on the language and learned English to get jobs as a vast migration from rural to urban began. By the 1980s, fewer than 20% of Māori spoke te reo.
7. Now it is very different. According to surveys by Te Puni Kōkiri, a Māori public policy group, “attitudes towards the Māori language among Māori and nonMāori are improving.” Maori words such as kiaora (hello), Aotearoa (New Zealand), kia kaha (be strong) and kai (food) have long been part of New Zealand English. But the use of others is spreading. The prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, recently gave her child a Māori middle name: Te Aroha, Aroha meaning “love”. The gesture was welcomed by tribal groups, who said Ardern was improving relations between the government and Māori people.
8. On New Zealand’s national day, Waitangi, this year, the first 49 seconds of Ardern’s speech on the sacred treaty grounds were delivered in te reo. At Buckingham Palace in April, the prime minister began her Commonwealth toast with a Māori proverb, in a video that has been watched tens of thousands of times.
MUSICAL HITS AND MAINSTREAM MEDIA
9. In June, the Māori heavy-metal band Alien Weaponry’s album Tū went right to number one in New Zealand and has had more than a million streams on Spotify, while last year Wairua by the Māori group Maimoa Music was the most-watched YouTube clip in New Zealand, seen more than 5.5m times.
10. A larger range of Māori programming has also played p a significant role in normalising the language, including publicly funded Māori TV, whose presenters and journalists speak only in Māori, with captions provided.
11. All signage is now bilingual in government offices, hospitals and most public spaces and the first bilingual children’s playground was opened in Rotorua this year. Mainstream broadcasters on commercial channels such as TVNZ and TV3 have shown a commitment to using Māori live on air and ignore critics who complain of feeling excluded. Television news presenter Kanoa Lloyd, of Māori descent, began introducing te reo words to her weather reports in 2015 and received a torrent of complaints and online abuse. She has continued to use te reo on her prime-time show The Project.
12. “Te reo has become cool and I am very happy about that. For a long time we thought it was over,” said Dr Arapera Bella Ngaha, who is studying the revitalisation of te reo at Auckland university.
Maoris welcoming the British & Irish Lions at Waitangi Treaty Grounds.
anecdotal evidence (inv.) unofficial proof based on observations / to rise, rose, risen to go up, to increase / to capture to take into account, to represent / census survey which determines details about the population of a nation. 5. to be on board to be ready to participate, to be involved / to launch to start, to create / accurate precise / to release to bring out / to roll out to produce and put in place / sign board with writing on it / increasing growing / sense feeling / to be committed to to be loyal to, to adhere to the values of / chief executive president. 6. to garner to acquire, to gain / a long way from very different to / to chastise to punish / to recall to remember / to whip to hit sharply (usually with a piece of leather) / such as like (for example)... / orphanage establishment for children without parents / to give, gave, given up on to abandon, to renounce / as here, when / by here, in. 7. survey poll, study / policy plan of action adopted by a government / towards with regards to / among here, with / to improve to get better / to be part of to be an integral aspect of / to spread, spread, spread to develop / middle name second name / to welcome to receive with pleasure. 8. treaty grounds place where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840 between representatives of the British -CrownMaand ori chiefs / to deliver here, to speak, to say. 9. band group / right straight / while here, and. 10. range variety / significant important /to fund to finance / caption words written under a picture, subtitle / to provide to give.11. signage signposts, signs / playground place where children can play / broadcaster presenter / channel TV station / on air on television / critic detractor / tocomplain to criticize, to deplore / descent ancestry, origin / weather report presentation of a forecast of meteorological conditions / abuse insults / show TV programme. 12. to be over to be finished.