Te wiki o te reo Maori (Maori Language Week) starts today.
It's one of my favourite awareness "weeks" of the year as it has a tangible effect - the kia oras and ka kites can be heard from shops, workplaces, schools and communities around the country.
Learning the Maori words for everyday objects was one of my favourite things at school. I would come home and ask my mum with glee to open a matapihi (window), to pass me a pene rakau (pencil) or tell her I'm feeling makariri (cold) today.
Learning these basics in te reo helped me immensely when I started high school and took up Japanese.
The two different languages share a similarity in pronunciation and spelling, and those of us who had learned Maori basics found it much easier to pick up Nihongo (Japanese).
I disagree with people who claim there is no point in learning te reo, saying it is a dying language or useless outside New Zealand.
Learning any language helps expand the mind and, once you've learned one language, it becomes easier to pick up others.
If you're going to live your life in New Zealand, there's more point in learning Maori than there is in learning a language like French or Spanish, unless you're an international business person or an intrepid traveller.
The Maori language is useful to anyone who lives in New Zealand - we have towns and cities with Maori names, it is used in many official settings and it's even a big part of our national sport - how many people enjoy watching the All Blacks open a rugby game with a staunch haka, yet don't know the meaning behind Ka Mate?
The Maori language is unique to New Zealand and something we should all take pride in.