Editorial: Te reo Maori far too precious to be lost

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Te reo may be past the point where it can be preserved by Maori alone. It needs to be embraced by the general population.
Te reo may be past the point where it can be preserved by Maori alone. It needs to be embraced by the general population.

Children in primary school are not generally offered subject options. They receive a range of nationally prescribed subjects and skills that will enable them to participate happily, equally and productively in the life of New Zealand. The curriculum is "compulsory" and nobody minds - until it is suggested that all New Zealand children should be given a grounding in te reo Maori.

Of course they should. It is our unique language. A nation with its own language has an enviable cultural distinction, a set of references not known to others. It can be a means of communicating exclusively among ourselves or used simply for the pride of belonging to a place with its own lingual heritage.

That pride is evident today whenever younger generations of New Zealanders give voice to the national anthem in Maori. Older Pakeha can only listen for the most part, and rue the fact that their education did not give them the same confidence.

The national anthem is little enough to learn, our primary schools should be doing much more. At that age children can learn multiple languages much more easily than when they are older. Te reo should be an option in secondary schools too, but it is at primary that New Zealanders could most easily acquire a second language as children in multilingual countries do.

English as a first language is both a blessing and a scourge. A blessing because it is well understood just about everywhere in the world and a scourge because English-speakers feel no need to learn any other. They do not realise what they are missing. No language has words for all the thoughts and experiences than can come to a human mind. Every language will have some words without precise equivalents in another. The more languages a person learns, the wider that person's range of thought and expression may be.

Te reo is particularly rich in words with shades of meaning that English lacks. Mana is an obvious one, meaning much more than pride or dignity. The word is so useful that New Zealand English has adopted it.

Utu is another, though it does not simply mean "revenge" as non-Maori adopters suppose. It refers more generally to balance in people's dealings with each other. Reciprocity might be the nearest English equivalent but it is not quite the same.

Te reo is too rich to be lost. Yet today, the start of an annual Maori Language Week, it remains in danger.

Despite decades of encouragement with dedicated pre-school and primary education in kohanga reo and kura kaupapa, secondary and tertiary courses, iwi radio stations and a television channel broadcasting in te reo, the number of Maori speaking their native language is in decline. These efforts might not succeed if the language is no longer being spoken in Maori homes.

In an attempt to arrest the slide, Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples proposes to put the administrative agencies Te Taura Whiri i Te Reo Maori (the Maori Language Commission) and Te Mangai Pahu (the Maori broadcasting funder) under the supervision of a joint iwi body, Te Matawai.

This is in line with recommendations from a 2011 review of the language institutions but the New Zealand Maori Council is challenging the set-up before the Waitangi Tribunal.

Te reo may be past the point where it can be preserved by Maori alone. It needs to be embraced by the general population.

Schools are already doing their utmost with limited language teachers and resources.

Maori Language Week is a call to all New Zealanders to help nurture this taonga, learn more of its words, use them, and relish its role in our national voice.

Maori translation

Kaore nga tamariki kura tuatahi e ahei ki te kowhiri i a ratau ake kaupapa ako. Ka akohia ratau ki nga kaupapa, pukenga hoki kua whakaritea kehia mo te motu, kia taea ai te noho pai i Aotearoa i runga i te hari, te oritetanga, te whaitake hoki. Kua "whakaturehia" kehia te marautanga me te aha kaore he aha ki te iwi whanui - kia kiia rawatia me ako nga tamariki katoa o Aotearoa i te reo Maori.

Ka tika tonu kia ako ratau i te reo. Koinei to tatau reo ahurei. Ma te reo ake o te whenua e whakahirahira ai tona ake ahurea, koinei tona rereketanga. He reo kawe korero i waenga i a tatau noa iho, hei kaupapa whakahihi ranei ma tatau e tohu ana he reo tuku iho no te whenua.

Ka kitea taua whakahihi i roto i nga whakatipuranga tamariki o Aotearoa e waiata ana i te waiata o te motu i roto i te reo Maori. Ko ta te hunga pakeke Pakeha he whakarongo noa iho mo te nuinga o te waiata, a, ka awhiti hoki he kore i akona ratau i a ratau i te kura kia mohio ai.

He tino mama noa iho te ako i te waiata o te motu, a, ko te tikanga kia tino nui atu nga mahi a nga kura tuatahi. I taua taipakeke ka taea mamatia e nga tamariki te ako i nga reo maha tena i te wa ka pakeke ake ratau. Me whai wahi ano ki te reo i roto i nga kura tuarua, engari i te kura tuatahi ka mama ake te ako i nga tangata o Aotearoa ki tetahi reo tuarua pera i nga tamariki o nga whenua reo maha.

He pai, he kino ano hoki i roto i te reo Ingarihi hei reo tuatahi. He pai i te mea he whanui te korerotia o te reo i te nuinga o nga wahi o te ao, a, he kino i te mea kaore nga kaikorero i te reo Ingarihi i te hiahia ako i tetahi atu reo. Kaore rawa ratau i te mohio kei te whakapohara ratau i a ratau ano. Kaore he reo e whai kupu ana mo nga whakaaro me nga ahuatanga katoa ka uru ki te hinengaro o te tangata. Kei ia reo etahi kupu kaore e kitea i roto i tetahi atu reo. Ka whanui ke atu nga whakaaro, kianga hoki o te tangata i te maha atu o ona reo ka ako ia.

He tino whanui nga kupu o te reo Maori e kore e kitea he whakamaramatanga i roto i te reo Ingarihi. Penei i te kupu mana, he nui atu tona whakamaoritanga i te 'pride', te 'dignity' ranei. E tino whakamahia whanuitia tenei kupu, a, kua riro atu ki te reo Ingarihi o Aotearoa. Ko te kupu utu tetahi atu, engari ehara ko te 'revenge' noa iho tona tikanga e ai ki te pohehe o nga tauiwi e whakamahi ana i te kupu. Engari ko te tikanga ake he whakahoki i te oritetanga ki waenga i te tangata tetahi ki tetahi. Ko te 'reciprocity' pea te kupu Ingarihi e katata ana ki tona tikanga ake engari kaore tonu i te tino orite.

He ranea rawa te reo ki te ngaro. Engari i tenei ra, te timatanga o te Wiki o Te Reo Maori, kei te raruraru tonu te reo. Ahakoa nga tau maha e hapaitia ana te reo i nga Kohanga Reo, kura kaupapa, wharekura me nga akoranga whare wananga, nga reo irirangi a-iwi me te pouaka whakaata reo Maori, kei te haumate haere te hunga Maori e korero ana i to ratau reo. Kaore pea he hua o enei kaupapa ki te kore te reo e korerotia i roto i nga kainga Maori.

Kua whakamatau te Minita o nga Take Maori a Pita Sharples ki te auporo i te haumate o te reo ma te whakakotahi i nga tari o Te Taura Whiri i Te reo Maori me Te Mangai Paho ki raro i tetahi whakahaere topu a-iwi e kiia ana ko Te Matawai. E u ana tenei ki nga taunakitanga i puta i tetahi arotake i nga tari hapai reo i te tau 2011 engari kei te tohea tenei kaupapa e te Kaunihera Maori o Aotearoa ki Te Ropu Whakamana i te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Kua hipa pea te reo i te wahi e taea e te Maori anake te tiaki i te reo. Me tauawhi ke e te iwi whanui katoa. Kei te whakapau kaha nga kura ahakoa te iti o nga kaiako matatau me nga rauemi hoki. He karanga Te Wiki o Te Reo Maori ki nga tangata katoa o Aotearoa kia awhina mai ki te tiaki i tenei taonga, kia akona, kia whakamahia hoki nga kupu, ka mutu kia rongohia tona mana i roto i te reo o te motu.

- NZ Herald

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