Give te reo a go, says EIT academic

By Rebekah Philson

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Eastern Institute of Technology's director of Maori Tuhakia Keepa hopes to extend the reach of Maori Language Week.
Eastern Institute of Technology's director of Maori Tuhakia Keepa hopes to extend the reach of Maori Language Week.

Tuhakia Keepa wants people to give te reo a go this Maori Language Week.

His role as Eastern Institute of Technology's director of Maori focuses on steering different parts of the institution towards greater achievements for Maori students.

"It's about developing a culture within the institution where Maori achievement is expected," Mr Keepa said.

This focus is as much about the staff as it is about the students.

"Whether it is pronunciation of Maori words and names or techniques of engaging students in classes."

EIT students are not in classes this week, so this year's Maori Language Week activities will specifically focus on staff development.

The director has presented the staff with a number of competitive challenges, including the casual use of five Maori phrases in their work.

"We're [also] getting our staff to think about how they develop their Maori profiles.

How would they introduce themselves in Maori, what are their main interests."

He learnt te reo Maori from a young age, through his father and attending bilingual schools.

Despite his proficiency at the language, he is still keen to further develop his skills.

"Even though I'm a fluent speaker, one of my key challenges is to learn the different language features that are being used today and the different vocab."

This changing vocabulary was the inspiration behind one of last year's staff activities, which involved faculty teams developing a tailored papakupu (Maori dictionary).

The "poetic and figurative" nature of te reo Maori is also an aspect of the language that encourages Mr Keepa to strive to improve his skills.

"You can paint a picture with words rather than being literal around how you say things."

Te reo had not been a "natural component" in most people's lives, he said.

With many often struggling to find the relevance of the Maori language in their work, his approach aims to "build an environment where people can feel comfortable at having a go at te reo Maori".

This approach will hopefully extend the prominence of te reo beyond its designated week.

"Increasing the participation of the wider community speaking te reo - that's where the challenge lies."

The academic has seen positive changes during the past two years through the "have a go" mentality, with many staff taking up certificate level te reo programmes.

Proverb:

* Ko taku reo taku ohooho, ko taku reo taku mapihi mauria

* My language is my awakening, my language is the window to my soul

- Hawkes Bay Today

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