By Neil Reid

The only thing holding back Māori from being used wider - and in new realms - is opportunity, Māori Language Commission chief executive Ngahiwi Apanui says.

For the past four days New Zealand has been celebrating Māori Language Week; with a raft of community events, educational providers and companies promoting te reo Māori.

As the commission and other stake-holders promoting the use of Māori look to the future, Apanui said its future health rested with people using what level of Maori they had at present to the maximum, as well as greater exposure for students, a wider use in the media and in technology.


"Nothing is more important that people using the language they have, however small," Apanui said.

"And using can be more than having conversations.

"People can sing, pray and perform in te reo Māori. We can give our organisations and businesses Māori names. We can put up Māori language signs. People should welcome te reo Māori into their workplaces and lives.

"We now have the advantage of Māori language radio and TV and big web presences. Those who have learned a little can and do use these to develop and reinforce their language."

Apanui said he was "excited" by the development of a range of apps which supported pronunciation and learning.

"Technology is coming to the aid of revitalisation," he said.

But he was also aware that there was a "need" for more visibility of the language and more places to use it.

"It's important that everyone encourages Māori speakers to use the language and that it is welcomed into our workplaces, sports and everywhere we gather," he said.


"Some recent research has pointed to a resurgence in inter-generational transfer (children learning at home). It is really important that parents use all the Māori language they can to their children.

"And too many schools are not teaching Māori language or teaching only a little. Twenty-eight percent of schools do. We need the Māori language to become available in all schools."

He added teachers were amongst the commission's "Toa reo Māori" ("Māori language heroes").

"They can all learn a little and use a little. And huge numbers do so."

Apanui said Māori Language Week was a great opportunity to "celebrate something of importance to all New Zealand".

He said the language linked us to New Zealanders of the past, who named the places and unique features of the country, and to "New Zealanders of the future who will value and use te reo Māori as a marker of national identity and pride".


Apanui revealed to the Herald earlier this week that he believed that in a generation Māori will be a minority of New Zealanders who speak te reo Māori and that in a hundred years only a minority of New Zealanders will not be able to speak Māori.

About 20,000 non-Māori speak conversational Māori now, and many more speak and understand many words and expressions. Almost 150,000 people in total speak conversational Māori.

"There is a momentum growing in wider New Zealand and a tremendous enthusiasm for te reo," he said.

"I think the numbers learning in pre-school and school will at least double in the next 20 years and a majority of those learners will not be Māori. Growth will continue until Māori speakers of te reo are outnumbered by others."

When asked advice for people who wanted to embrace te reo this week, and beyond, Apanui said: "First, learn a little and use a little. "Kia ora", "tēnā koe" "ka kite i a koe". Then learn a little more and use a little more. Don't be shy."