If you don't want to do something, you can usually find a thousand good reasons not to.

I get it. We — New Zealand, home of the Māori people, nation of progressives, world-stage defenders of being nuclear free and all else that's good — we don't want to learn Māori.

We've found a thousand reasons. Or four. We've actually only found four really good ones that we keep repeating. And they've been repeated by various critics of te reo Māori in the past fortnight, so they're the four we're going to address today.

Tuatahi reason: If we teach our kids Māori at schools, what subject will we drop? Maths or science?


It's primary school. It's not a boot camp. There's a fair bit of time wasted on drawing insects and learning the recorder. Do you remember social studies? Now that is a prime candidate for culling.

If we ditch the social studies classroom time dedicated to colouring in maps of New Zealand, we could probably find a bit of time for te reo Māori.

And you'd only need to teach kids Māori through to primary school. That'd be enough to get them chatting. Then they'd be free to drop the subject once the harder yakka of secondary school kicks in. And P.S. I'm not convinced NCEA is as hard as we all think.

Tuarua reason: The Government didn't kill it, why should the Government spend money saving it?

Here's proof social studies is a waste of time. If the subject actually fulfilled its description, we would all have been taught more of our own history, including the part where the Government actively suppressed te reo Māori, often by beating it out of kids at school.

Those kids went on to punish their own kids for speaking the language, such was the shame associated with it. That's why the language is in the state it is.

Tuatoru reason: If you can't use it to do business internationally, it's pointless.

Money should not be the only measure of the usefulness of something. If money was the only thing that mattered, then going to the beach this weekend was a pointless exercise. Cuddling a child is a waste of time.


Sometimes you do something because it's beautiful or enriching or fun. And that's what learning Māori can be.

You're probably never going to use it to settle an international trade deal, but maybe you could use it to gossip about foreigners behind their backs.

It can help learners to better understand why Māori sometimes have a different way of doing things to Pākehā. Sometimes it's a better way of doing things.

Plus, te reo Māori is one of the few things that makes us different from the Canadians or the Australians.

Otherwise, we're all just a bunch of former Commonwealth countries, settled by white people predominantly of British stock, wilfully ignoring the tangata whenua, speaking English.

Tuawha reason: It's 'someone else's language'.

Thank you to National Party leader Bill English for that pearler. And here we were thinking he was a little more enlightened than your usual conservative.

Actually, it's not "someone else's language", it's our language.

Because, saying "someone else" suggests that we still don't see ourselves — Māori and Pākehā — as one people.

If it's our country and our haka and our Government then it is also our language. You don't just get to take on the good stuff when you land in another country. You take it all on.

So there. Now you have four fewer reasons not to learn te reo Māori.