Te reo Maori should be compulsory in New Zealand schools, Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy says.

Being bi-lingual would be "a real added advantage" to young Kiwis, she said, and would help race relations.

Speaking on TV3's The Nation this morning on Race Relations Day, the commissioner said te reo was "a beautiful" language and people should make more of an effort to learn and use it on a daily basis.

"I just think it's [my] generation that are a bit ignorant of that [the language], because for young people it's very normalised, it's part of their every day life," she said.

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While it might not be attributed to racism, she said there was definitely "a reluctance" among some people about the use of te reo.

"The minute someone starts mentioning whether te reo should be compulsory in schools, well, lots of people raise their arms," she said.

"I think that being bi-lingual would be a real added advantage to our young people."

Asked specifically if she supported mandatory te reo lessons in New Zealand schools, she said: "I do."

Politicians should also make more of an effort to use te reo on a regular basis, she said.

"It's not easy, I try really hard with my pronunciation and trying to learn a few more words, and [I'm] trying to learn the language actually. It's incredibly difficult," she said.

"But we need to make much more of an effort than we currently do."

It was more important to try, than to pronounce the words correctly, she said.

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- NZME