I think it became a slightly bigger deal than it might have because Bill English (a) weighed in and (b) called it someone else's language.

Technically I guess he is wrong - te reo is our language not someone else's.

Unless you mean it belongs to those who speak it - which of course is next to no one -
hence it's a story in the first place.

Which is the other irony of it... Is it really a story? Is a language in trouble a story if it's been in trouble pretty much as long as I can remember, which would be most of my life, which is about 50 years.


In other words Maori has been spoken by a tiny and diminishing number of people - and for some, not many, that is a worry.
Hence the call to do something about it.

It's on life support, as one academic put it on Friday, and he is right. There is no doubt it's a language in trouble. But Bill English is right too - even if he chose his words slightly
clumsily in this increasingly PC world.

It is not a government's job to go round saving languages.

Why not? Because you have to ask yourself why it's in trouble. And the answer is simple: People don't want to bother with it.

Its not like they don't have the choice. It's not like they haven't had the choice forever.

Maori - like all languages - can be freely learned in a variety of ways. We just don't want to - and that's our right.

Part of it is of course because -and this is un-PC as well - it's of little use outside New Zealand.

In fact, given it's spoken by so few, it's actually not a lot of use inside NZ. But a language historically lives or expands or remains popular because it exists or spreads internationally and/or it's useful in business. Maori doesn't and has never fitted that particular criteria.


So... what to do? Well if the Government were of a mind (and thank God it's not) it could make every kid learn it. That's the only way to get more people learning it, given all the pleading has gone on for years for exactly no change whatsoever.

Compulsion. And compulsion is rarely a good reason to do anything. And if you forced kids to learn it they would learn at the expense of what? Maths? history?

Something would have to give if education is about arming young people with tools for the future - a language that is barely spoken here and not spoken at all internationally is hardly meeting that criteria is it?

The other answer - which has always been the answer - lies with us all personally.

We can all learn it. We can all speak it, but we don't - so expecting the government to do what we can't be bothered doing ourselves tells you all you need to know about the way we really feel about it.

And why it's in the shape it is.