Having a doting grandmother and a full belly were the main motivating factors in Moko Tepania's te reo Māori journey.
The Far North councillor of Ngāti Kahu ki Whangaroa/Te Rarawa descent remembers the decision to take te reo Māori as a subject at high school when he was in year nine, aged 13.
"I took Māori because I had to choose a language - it was either that or French. I chose Māori because they fed the students, and I wanted to get a feed."
His grandmother Wero Campbell, a first language speaker, gave young Tepania her full support.
"It was awesome, she stopped speaking English to me," he said.
"It was easier to learn at school and practice at home.
"When you're in a full immersion environment it makes it so much easier to learn a language.
"I love how it unlocks our culture.
"I was born Māori and grew up Māori, but once I started learning the language and became more fluent it unlocked even more of my identity."
Nearly 18 years later, 30-year-old Tepania is fluent and speaks his native tongue at home with whānau.
His role as a Māori language teacher at Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Kaikohe, where he's worked for the last four years, is another place where "the majority of my time is spent speaking te reo."
His message to others during Māori Language Week Te Wiki o te Reo Māori, which runs from September 13 to 19, is to "embrace our language".
"At a time where we're growing up as a country, a hugely significant part of that growing up is the revitalisation of te reo Māori.
"I would encourage everyone in our country to embrace our language."
From 2010 to 2013 Tepania undertook a Bachelor of Teaching and a Bachelor of Arts majoring in te reo Māori and Anthropology at Waikato University, graduating in 2014.
He currently represents the Far North District Council's Kaikohe-Hokianga Ward and is the council's te ao Māori portfolio lead.
This year he passed his translators' and interpreters' licence through the Māori Language Commission, which marked another step on his language journey.
Tepania said he is proud that in the Far North district there are 10,000 people who can speak te reo Māori.
"That's 16 per cent - the country's average is four per cent."
Last year, as part of Mahuru Māori [Māori language] month, Tepania spoke only te reo during council meeting deliberations.
This year he is also posting te reo words and teachings with English translations on his Facebook page under the Mahuru Māori challenge to speak the language daily during the month of September.
One of his greatest wishes would be for Māori Language Week to be every week.
"What I like about Māori Language Week is it's a week for some extra love and attention for our language.
"It's a good starter for organisations and people to think about how to continue to revitalise and celebrate te reo for the other 51 weeks."
Tepania encouraged Northlanders to get involved in the Māori Language Moment on September 14 at 12pm, which last year saw one million New Zealanders sign up to speak te reo at the same time.
September 14 marks the day in 1972 when a group of Māori language champions presented a petition on the steps of Parliament calling for te reo to be taught in our schools.
"Imagine 10 to 20 years down the track; it's all part of our journey to normalise our language," he said.
Māori Language Commission chief executive Ngahiwi Apanui said participants can celebrate te reo from wherever they are, in whatever way they wish.
In 2020, people sang, recited poetry, paddled waka ama, prayed and celebrated their way into history.
"Last year more than one million people joined us...this year we want to see two million of us gathered together," Apanui said.
"Te reo Māori is still an endangered language. We need everyone's help to ensure it is safe for future generations."
Tepania said "it takes just one generation to lose a language and three generations to bring it back.
"If we can pass it on to the next generation our language won't be at risk of being lost."
To register for the Māori Language Moment visit www.reomaori.co.nz
Moko's Mahuru Māori challenge
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Kia kaha: stay strong
Karawhiua: give it a go