When Manuel Springford started Māori Mondays he received letters of praise from MPs and won a Māori Language Award.

But three years on the Whangārei man has moved on from that kaupapa (initiative) and has been focusing more on learning about tikanga, and immersing himself in situations where te reo Māori is being spoken.

"I've been spending more time at the marae and I've got involved in a couple of committee groups and environment groups. I've been trying to go to as many hui and wānanga as I can, as well as learning a lot more whakapapa. And I've been trying to follow Maramataka Māori (the Māori lunar calendar) and that sort of thing," Springford said.

Whangārei man Manuel Springford no longer does Māori Mondays but still immerses himself in the language. Photo / John Stone
Whangārei man Manuel Springford no longer does Māori Mondays but still immerses himself in the language. Photo / John Stone

Springford started Māori Mondays - where he spoke te reo Māori on Mondays - in 2016 after wanting to improve his reo but struggling to find people to have conversations with.

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After telling his story to the Northern Advocate, he received letters from Te Tai Tokerau MP Kelvin Davis and Whangārei MP Shane Reti congratulating him.

He also won the Te Toa Reo Māori - Takitahi (Individual Achievement) award at the Māori Language Awards.

"As part of doing Māori Mondays I've got to know a lot more people. I decided to stop doing Māori Mondays but instead what I do is when I see someone I try to slip te reo in. Even if it's just a word or a greeting."

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Springford has been reconnecting with one of his whānau marae in Ahipara, Roma Marae.

"I just wanted to be a face there. They call the people who are from the area, the haukāinga, the ahi kā because they're the ones that keep the fires burning.

"But I said to them I can't be here all the time because I live in Whangārei so I want to be an ahi mahana - I'm warming the fire, and I'll help as much as I can, and I still want to be involved."

Springford said Māori Mondays was "really good" and "had its place".

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"It gave me huge confidence in being able to speak te reo to anyone. It improved my language and my knowledge."

Springford said Te Wiki o te reo Māori - Māori Language Week - is every week for him, but had some advice for people wanting to learn the language.

"You really have to push yourself to do it. I think 90 per cent of people's problem is that they're too shy. They're shy they might pronounce it wrong or say the wrong thing, but you really just have to get out there and try it."