Akina te reo — give te reo Maori a go — is the theme for this year’s Te Wiki o te Reo Maori. To mark Maori Language Week, Northern Advocate reporter Mikaela Collins spoke to two Northland whanau who use te reo Maori every day. One uses te reo exclusively and the other is determined to gain fluency.

The Kaiwai whanau say the best way to learn te reo Maori is to give it a go - which is exactly what they have been doing.

The Whangarei-based family of four have a goal to eventually become fluent in te reo Maori and they are doing whatever they can to make it happen.

Toni Kaiwai does te reo classes once a week. Her husband Anaru Kaiwai does Mau Rakau (Maori weaponry) twice a week. Their son, Liam, 8, is in the bilingual class at Hora Hora Primary School, and the three of them, along with the couple's youngest son, Tomas, 7, all go to Waiata Joy song sessions at Pehiaweri Marae.

"We've always supported the idea of making it a part of everyday life. I think it started, as a family, about a year ago when Liam went into the bilingual class at school. He was very keen to learn Maori. We let him choose and it got to a stage where his language surpassed our knowledge, so we wanted to support him," Mrs Kaiwai said.


Mr Kaiwai said for him learning te reo Maori has also been about reconnecting with his culture. He said te reo Maori wasn't spoken much when he was younger. "We had a whanau farm and our marae was literally only two minutes away but we never went there."

Mr Kaiwai said Mau Rakau had been a huge part of reconnecting with his culture and learning te reo Maori. "It's been really good. It's mainly listening to commands but they do calls in te reo Maori and you have to listen and learn. It's listening with your whole mind and body, it's quite holistic."

Learning te reo Maori is not only important to Mr and Mrs Kaiwai but their two sons are on board too.

"It's pretty cool," said Liam. "It's important to learn Maori language and it is good to commemorate the language our ancestors spoke."

Mrs Kaiwai said eventually she would like to be able to call her grandmother and have a full conversation in Maori.

She said the best way to learn te reo Maori is to give it a go. At home they use simple phrases in te reo like "go to bed" and "good night" and will use te reo Maori over English where they can.

Click here to read the story about a Northland whanau who use te reo Maori every day.