KERRE DOUBLES DOWN ON HER EFFORTS TO LEARN TO SPEAK MA¯ORI
Acouple of years ago, I signed up for a course in te reo Ma¯ori at Auckland University of Technology. It was something I’d wanted to do for a very long time. I love languages and why wouldn’t I want to learn the unique language of my own country?
A lot of other Kiwis, from every background and every ethnicity, felt the same way. I couldn’t get into my first or second choice of class, as they were oversubscribed, but I eventually managed to find a seat at a night-time class and thoroughly enjoyed my first semester.
However, learning anything new when you’re older is jolly hard work. And it’s also jolly hard work when you don’t do the work that’s required. Despite being told by my tutor that we’d have to do half an hour’s homework every day, I procrastinated and put it off, and thought I could make up for missing a day by doing an hour and a half the next. But with a language, you simply can’t do that and expect to retain the knowledge.
Although I passed the exams, and was clear to move on to Level 2, I knew in my heart I needed to go back and re-learn what I’d been taught until my foundation was solid enough for more. Every time
I’d attend a function and hear people – Maori,¯ Pakeha, Indian and South African – offer a formal greeting in te reo, I’d vow to hit the books again. When then-Prime Minister Bill English spoke in fluent Ma¯ ori at a Waitangi Day ceremony I was at, I kicked myself for not trying harder. For heaven’s sake, if a farming boy from
Dipton can make the effort, a girl who grew up in Tokoroa and Turangi should be able to rattle off a few words confidently.
This year, a mate of mine and I decided we’d be our own teachers. He’d attended the same AUT course as me, but a different year. Like me, he hadn’t kept up the revision and like me, he wanted to shore up the basics so he could move on.
We picked up Ma¯ori Made Easy by Scotty Morrison. Scotty and his wife Stacey are mutual friends and his book is a great tool for learning the language. Scotty says you need to spend just 15 minutes a day learning vocabulary and how to construct sentences, and then you’ll be away. So we have been poring over the books and testing each other, and slowly but surely we’re getting there.
I attended a fundraiser for InZone Education Foundation recently, a charity that provides homes for young Ma¯ori and Pacifika youth to live in while they attend Auckland Grammar or Epsom Girls’ Grammar – schools they would not otherwise be zoned for. The young man who spoke on his peers’ behalf was articulate in both Ma¯ori and English and was a brilliant representative for the charity.
It’s a great idea – there is a strong focus on the Ma¯ori and Christian kaupapa, and while there are high expectations of the students, there is wrap-around support to help them meet their potential. I got goose bumps listening to the haka and waiata of the students and that gave me extra motivation to put in the work to become not just fluent in te reo, but also be comfortable with the culture.
And then along came Prince Harry.
The Duke of Sussex knocked it out of the park when he visited Rotorua on his recent tour. He knew the protocol, he used te reo and pronounced it correctly and not only was he able to lead off the singing of Te Aroha, but he was also word perfect. It was chastening. Yes, I’m busy, but not as busy as the Duke of Sussex. If he can find the time and the effort to be comfortable using Ma¯ori, then I can too.
So when I go to London, I’m going to take Scotty’s book and keep learning. And I’ll take a few books for my grandson in te reo too. And hopefully instil in Bart, when he sees his grandmother studying, that learning is a lifetime journey.