Pass­ing on the gift

Weekend Herald - - News - M¯aori Made Easy 2 by Scott Mor­ri­son RRP $38

Teacher and broad­caster Scotty Mor­ri­son re­calls a ‘Ma­trix’ mo­ment on his jour­ney to flu­ency in te reo

Michael Neil­son

Scotty Mor­ri­son was “slid­ing into the wrong side of life”, be­fore te reo Ma¯ori brought him back. Now he is ex­pend­ing all his en­ergy on pass­ing that gift on.

“I was a bit hau­tutu¯,” Mor­ri­son said. “Get­ting into a bit of mis­chief. Te reo gave me pur­pose, some­thing to be pas­sion­ate about. Now I am try­ing to pay back the gift the Ma¯ori lan­guage has given me.”

Mor­ri­son is a Pro­fes­sor of te reo Ma¯ori at Massey Univer­sity and a news pre­sen­ter on TVNZ cur­rent af­fairs shows Te Karere and Marae.

He has writ­ten sev­eral te reo Ma¯ori books, in­clud­ing his most re­cent, Ma¯ori Made Easy 2, fol­low­ing on from the hugely suc­cess­ful Ma¯ori Made Easy. Like the first edi­tion, Ma¯ori Made Easy 2 pro­vides daily 30-minute lessons over 30 weeks. This edi­tion dives deeper into the in­tri­ca­cies of te reo.

“The books are de­signed to keep con­ti­nu­ity be­tween for­mal and home learn­ing, so when you go back to the night class you are two steps ahead, rather than tak­ing a step back.”

Un­like many of his de­voted stu­dents, Mor­ri­son, of Nga¯ti Whakaue de­scent, “fell into” te reo, by ac­ci­dent.

He didn’t grow up with it in his Rotorua home, nor was it spo­ken in his wider fam­ily.

When he started teach­ers’ train­ing col­lege, he took an in­tro­duc­tion to te reo pa­per, but only to suit a timetable that would give him a three-day week­end. “It is not a great ‘saw the light’ kind of story.”

In his sec­ond year he joined a flat with some of his flu­ent class­mates.

“By the third night I re­alised I was in a to­tal im­mer­sion en­vi­ron­ment.”

He de­cided to stay and found the col­lo­quial style lan­guage at home and more for­mal style at univer­sity had him pro­gress­ing rapidly.

“By the end of the year I saw The Ma­trix.” Mor­ri­son uses the movie ref­er­ence to de­scribe when lan­guage learn­ers click, and can un­der­stand and re­spond. “Like when the spies are fir­ing bul­lets at Neo and it all slows down. It was the same thing. I came out of my room, a flat­mate said some­thing in Ma¯ori and I re­sponded.”

From there Mor­ri­son’s pas­sion for te reo grew, and be­ing ex­posed to men­tors like Sir Ti­moti Karetu and Whare­huia Mil­roy made him mo­ti­vated to take it even fur­ther.

As a ter­tiary-level reo teacher for more than 25 years, Mor­ri­son has seen a mas­sive growth in in­ter­est.

“It is fan­tas­tic. Now there is a lot of good­will and at­ti­tude to­wards te reo, and a lot has only hap­pened in the past five years.

“We owe a lot to our lan­guage cham­pi­ons in the 1970s and 1980s who got the ko­hanga reo and te kura kau­papa Ma¯ori move­ments go­ing.

“Now we have cham­pi­ons in main­stream New Zealand, like Jack Tame and Guyon Espiner. We need more peo­ple like them, mak­ing it nor­mal.”

“This year the top stu­dents at Massey have been a French girl and a guy from Mid­dle East — they are al­ready trilin­gual, have opened up their neu­ro­log­i­cal path­ways.

“They also don’t bring any of that his­tor­i­cal bag­gage into the class­room, which some Ma¯ori have, trauma with the reo. The shame and em­bar­rass­ment of feel­ing a strong affin­ity, but not be­ing able to speak it.”

At TVNZ he and wife Stacey Mor­ri­son have been run­ning in­tro­duc­tory te reo classes.

“We had 40 spa­ces and we got 400 re­sponses.”

De­spite the mas­sive growth in learn­ers, the rate of flu­ent speak­ers was grad­u­ally de­clin­ing.

“We are get­ting good nor­mal­i­sa­tion but we are los­ing a lot of na­tive speak­ers and not re­plac­ing them.”

He had come round to the idea of com­pul­sory te reo in schools af­ter see­ing lan­guage re­vi­tal­i­sa­tion in Ire­land and Wales, but “it has to be planned out with the right teaching and re­sources”.

One of the main bar­ri­ers to learn­ing — like any lan­guage — is per­sis­tence.

“You need to work out how to fit it into your busy sched­ule, for­mu­late a plan, make con­tact with peo­ple in the reo space who can ko¯rero with you.”

Photo Doug Sher­ring

Stacey and Scotty Mor­ri­son and their chil­dren Ku­rawaka, Hawaiki and Ma­iana.


Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.