Te reo-only day keeps language alive

By Mikaela Collins -
Every Monday Northland man Manuel Springford exclusively speaks te reo Maori - no matter where he is. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Every Monday Northland man Manuel Springford exclusively speaks te reo Maori - no matter where he is. Photo / Michael Cunningham

When Northland man Manuel Springford goes into the bakery on Mondays for a meat pie you're likely to hear him say "kopaki kiko maku" rather than "meat pie for me".

His use of te reo Maori often leaves those who don't speak the language confused and Mr Springford often has to use actions to convey his message.

But on Mondays he speaks te reo Maori exclusively - no matter where he is.

"Our family weren't brought up speaking te reo Maori. My grandfather is from Ahipara and he grew up speaking Maori and I thought I could give back to him by learning Maori," he said.

Mr Springford, who is of Te Rarawa and Ngai Tahu descent, said he spent a couple of years learning te reo so he could hold a conversation with his grandfather. But when his grandfather passed away he found the only time he used the language was when he visited his grandfather's brother in Ahipara.

"I decided for my learning and for my kids, on Mondays I would only speak Maori for the whole day and then, hopefully, that would encourage others to get on board," he said.

For about six weeks the Whangarei man has been speaking te reo Maori on Mondays, including at his job as a flooring contractor (kaiwhariki).

"I think people are probably confused most of the time. I went to the bakery and the Chinese guy in there, he couldn't understand what I was saying but I just used hand gestures to explain myself.

The hardest one has been for the guy who works with me. He doesn't speak any Maori so it has been a bit of a learning curve for him."

Mr Springford said for the first couple of Mondays his family got frustrated and couldn't wait until Tuesday, but now they embraced it.

His wife also decided to do a te reo Maori course to learn more. "They're all pretty keen to take it on board."

He said others had also taken interest. "I've had a pretty good response. Everyone has been super supportive and I've just started sending a txt to people in te reo Maori teaching them one new Maori word."

Mr Springford said he was not fluent but speaking te reo every Monday had helped him retain his knowledge.

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