When Irish scholar Aoife Finn came across a book titled Maori in a library in Ireland, she was instantly hooked. She has studied the language for years, despite having never visited the country where it's spoken.
Now the 31-year-old from Dundalk, about an hour from Dublin, is finally in New Zealand and was at Whangarei's Te Wananga o Aotearoa campus yesterday as part of her visit, which has been sponsored by the tertiary education provider.
She arrived in Whangarei on Sunday night and is staying with a staff member from Te Wananga o Aotearoa.
I was just amazed. I'd never seen anything like it.
"It's fabulous, it's stunning ... the scenery and the Brynderwyns - going up it for a start with the twisty, bendy roads and the foliage.
"Then coming down when you can see Whangarei from a distance is beautiful."
Ms Finn was studying for a master's degree at Trinity College in Dublin when she came across Winifred Bauer's 1993 book, Maori.
"I was doing an assignment for my syntax class. I was flicking through what we call reference grammars and I picked up that book, and I was just amazed. I'd never seen anything like it."
She said she was initially interested in the look of te reo Maori and then discovered that it had "many wonderful syntactic features".
"I was hooked. I did my assignment on te reo, and did quite well, so I decided to do my dissertation on te reo Maori as well - I didn't really consider any other language to look at."
Ms Finn arrived in New Zealand on Saturday and was given a traditional welcome on to Owairaka Rawhitiroa Marae in Te Awamutu, where she did some weaving.
She said after studying te reo Maori for so long, it was fabulous to be fully immersed in Maori culture, something before now she had only seen in books and on computer screens.
"This trip is a dream come true. It allows me to hear Maori being spoken and it allows me to dip my feet in and try to speak some myself. I would try to watch videos and YouTube but the problem was, I repeated it and thought I was getting it right, but when you're with [native] speakers, there might be a subtlety with the sound they can correct."
Ms Finn said she hoped her visit would bring attention to te reo Maori and encourage more people to learn the language.
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