Austrian and former Te Wānanga o Aotearoa (TWoA) security guard Julian Svadlenak, 24, has been on a mission to normalise the use of te reo Māori throughout New Zealand.
Now Whatawhata-based, Julian moved to New Zealand with his parents and sister in 2013 and discovered his love for te reo Māori in 2019 while working at TWoA. Speaking with the teachers during his shift motivated him to begin his language journey.
"The viewpoints [whakaaro Māori] resonated with me and made me feel at home. I feel very comfortable and natural in it," says Julian.
He currently works as a policy adviser for Waikato-Tainui, a job that he also scored thanks to his reo Māori studies at the Mangakōtukutuku campus in Glenview, Hamilton, and his law degree. Julian says his job gave him the opportunity to expand on his reo Māori knowledge.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
"I've been really lucky in my environment. I've had people around me that I can practise with at both university and mahi."
During Māori Language Week, Julian decided to take up the Mahuru Māori te reo challenge. In an effort to normalise te reo Māori being spoken all throughout Aotearoa, he made the commitment to speak only Māori for the first half of the day, with the exception of some work hui (meetings) involving external people.
"The more it's heard, the more it's made normal. We should make a considered effort because the more we do it the less likely it will be a māngere (lazy) thing to fall back into reo Pākehā."
After completing two reo Māori Certificates and even skipping from level 2 to level 5, he is now completing his Level 6 Diploma in Te Aupikitanga ki te Reo Kairangi with TWoA. But it doesn't stop there: Julian even aims to continue his reo Māori journey next year and begin a Level 7 Diploma in Te Pīnakitanga ki te Reo Kairangi.
"The teachers [kaiako] have been very patient with all the students [tauira], accommodating to what each needs. So even if you have a higher skill level, they will still challenge you," says Julian.
He is hopeful that more people will take up the opportunity to learn te reo Māori, including his own parents.
"If you want to learn, there's never a wrong time to start. Just a word [kupu] a day goes a long way if you think about it. [With] 365 days in a year, you'll know alot of kupu at the end of it."