Lin­guis­tic LESSONS


New Zealand Woman’s Weekly - - SHORTBLONDE -

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.

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