The media has fallen over itself to criticise some high profile loathing of the Māori language this week.

And although I'm in total agreement with my broadcasting colleagues who value the importance of embracing our indigenous language, I wonder if a better rebuttal to all the anti-Māori grumblings of the decreasingly relevant is for all of us who care to actually improve our collective language.

For the record, I don't speak Te Reo at all well. This time last year I returned from living overseas with a deeper sense of identity and a greater sense of shame about not speaking more of the language. I vowed to make a bit of an effort.

But it was easy to improve. The great thing about Māori is that resources are everywhere and even if you don't have time, you might be surprised by what you can learn.


I work six days a week and get up at 3.20am for five of them. But I enrolled in a term of comfortable evening classes at my local marae, and followed it up with a beginners' course at my local university.

Three hours of class once a week hardly makes for a life sentence.

There are some astonishing resources available online for anyone wanting to learn Te Reo.

Our apartment is decorated with language posters and flash cards. YouTube is fantastic if you want help with pronunciation. And although it's unrealistic to expect the whole nation to become fluent overnight, if we all embraced a few simple things it would make the likes of Don Brash very red in the cheeks.

Make an effort on pronunciation

Victoria University uses the following examples for vowel sounds, which should guide the way we pronounce most Māori words.

For short vowels: A as in "aloud," E as in "entry," I as in "eat," O as in "ordinary," and U as in "to".

For long vowels: A as in "car," E as in "led," I as in "peep," O as in "pork," U as in "loot."

In Māori, the "Wh" digraph should generally be pronounced as an English "F". The "Ng" sound should be pronounced as in the word "singer". All "R" sounds should be lightly rolled, and macrons extend the sound.


It's 2017: Wok-a-tarn-aye and Car-rack-a are no longer acceptable.

Do macrons

Whatever email and text system you use, enable Māori macrons. It's very simple to change the keyboard settings on your phone and computer. If you don't know how, google it.

Kids rule

So many Kiwi kids are already better than their parents at speaking the language.

Encourage them. Ask your kids to teach you a mihi. Mine might be the last generation to have neglected te reo Māori, but the next might be the generation to restore it.

If this year has taught me anything, it's that the weight of a few small efforts can create positive change. It's better to try and to make mistakes than not to make an effort at all.

And it's never too late to learn. One of my classmates this year is 74 and hadn't been in a classroom for more than five decades.

So if you recoil at some of the anti-Māori rhetoric doing the rounds this week, give Brash a big Chrissy present and make improving your Reo a resolution for 2018.