It's Māori Language Week and we all know what that means.

It's the time of year when debate ignites about whether te reo Māori should be taught in schools, or if it should be relegated to yesteryear.

To be honest, I was shocked when I started hearing all the fuss around Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori as an adult. All the schools I attended incorporated te reo into daily lessons and I assumed it was a normal part of Kiwi schooling.

For that knowledge I received, I count myself as one of the lucky ones.

Advertisement

I know how to respond when someone asks "Kei te pēhea koe?".

I know how to pronounce place names correctly.

I understand what people mean when they use Māori words like kaupapa, wharepaku, mahi, kai or koha in everyday conversation.

I know where to sit during a pohiri.

And - most importantly - I have used all that knowledge in the real world. After all, I live, work and play in New Zealand.

That's why I get frustrated when I hear people asking why we should teach our children a "dead" language.

Why not teach them something useful like Mandarin or French, right?

There are tens of thousands of school-aged children in the Bay of Plenty right now - how many of them are likely to be living and working in China or France in adulthood?

Advertisement

Most will spend the majority of their adult years right here in Godzone, with the occasional overseas vacation.

Spanish and German don't have much application in everyday New Zealand life, unlike Māori, which is everywhere - road signs, city names, in the news and on the television. Yet we still see value in learning those languages.

Quite frankly, I think knowing how to pronounce Tauranga, Rotorua and Whakatāne correctly is a far more practical skill for Kiwi children than how to count to 10 in Japanese - although they could learn that too.

Learning any language is good for the mind. We may as well start with a language spoken in our own country.