Growing up looking Pākehā but with a Māori father and an Irish mother, us six kids had an introduction to te reo Maori from an early age.
My paternal great-grandmother spoke te reo fluently and my Irish great-grandmother spoke Irish Gaelic fluently.
I knew neither of these women personally, who died before my birth, but their respective tongues lived on down the generations with us kids using words from both languages without even knowing it.
• Premium - Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori: Tauranga family strengthens the language
• Tauranga, not 'Towel-ronger': Mr G pushes for correct pronunciation
• Premium - Letters: Learning te reo Māori should be a choice
• Learning how to better preserve precious Māori items in Tauranga
I did not know that words such as craic, gammy, taihoa and e hoa were not English words until I was nearly an adult.
Dad talked of growing up and going to school in Urenui, then a very small village in Taranaki, and all the kids of both cultures speaking te reo and English in the playground but reverting to English in class.
He had no stories of being beaten for talking Māori but said it was expected that all children would talk English while class was in session.
This was in the 1920s and 1930s. Away from school, both languages were spoken either individually or mixed together.
As a child, I noticed the different inflections of Dad's English, depending on who he was talking to.
Talking to Pākehā he spoke in a Pākehā way, even putting on a toffee-nosed accent if he was nervous or talking to someone who he thought was of note.
Talking to Māori friends and with us at home, he relaxed into a vernacular of both Te Reo and English with distinct Māori inflections if we had Māori visitors.
As children we did not notice this at all, we probably did it ourselves.
Some other Pākehā kids also used te reo words in everyday language but most did not.
When my beloved paternal grandmother came to stay it was te reo and English all mixed up between Dad and her with us kids learning the words by osmosis, I guess.
Their English had a Māori accent which Dad did not use normally outside the home.
I have grown old with a love of the Māori language and a complete inability to be fluent in it.
I like to use te reo in my daily dealings with people.
I live in Whanganui, where 28.5 per cent of people claim Māori descent, so I hear beautiful te reo spoken almost daily in conversation, using it myself as often as I can.
I always try to pronounce place names correctly but bad habits take years to lose.
Nowadays it grates on my ears when I hear other Pākehā either mispronouncing place names or shortening them.
If they know better is it just laziness or contrariness?
It is my experience that the acceptance of te reo by Pakeha as an everyday language in Aotearoa is not universal and is very dependent on where people live.
My wife and I were in a small South Island town one Anzac Day a few years ago.
We attended the Anzac Day service at the local cenotaph as an Irish great-uncle of mine, who died at Gallipoli, has his name on the memorial.
There was a crowd of many hundreds present and it was a lovely day.
We happened, by chance, to be standing with some Māori people.
The vicar taking the service asked us to sing the national anthem.
Away we went: The vicar, the Māori whānau, the bride and me.
About 12 people out of hundreds sang the Māori version of our national anthem.
When we got to the English bit the backing group of several hundred came in.
As visitors from a small North Island city we could not believe that, in this day and age, this still happened.
I said in passing to the Māori guy standing next to me, "that was interesting".
He laughed and said, "you from the North Island mate? Happens all the time."
What te reo I know has become rusty due to lack of use. Tangihanga and hui are now the only times I get to exercise it unless I am bantering with Māori mates or greeting people.
I have a whaikorero I use for powhiri but I have to constantly rehearse it before using it.
Māori is like any other language - unless you are immersed in the language daily it is hard for some to maintain any fluency.
It is great that the young are now learning te reo as a matter of course and also, soon, some true New Zealand colonial history at school.
Would it not be wonderful to see the day where English and Māori are spoken fluently by New Zealanders of all cultures?
If European Union children can learn at least two, normally more, languages I am sure Kiwi kids can do the same, but better of course.