Attempting to order a Big Mac with no patties in te reo Māori is just one of the challenges Shaquille Shortland has already faced this month.

There has also been looks of confusion, friends who don't reply to his messages, and family who message him even if they are in the same room.

The Whangārei man is taking part in Mahuru Māori - an initiative that challenges people to only speak te reo Māori for the month of September.

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"It's a very lonely challenge, especially if your family and close-by friends don't really speak Māori, same in the work environment. I suppose the best place is Facebook because there's dedicated groups for people doing the challenge. So I put up in Māori 'we should change the name to Mahuru Mokemoke' which is lonely September," he said.

Shortland, 24, did not grow up around a lot of te reo but began learning when he started attending Hāto Petera college.

He said he'd follow around the priests, kaumatua and kuia, picking up on all the different expressions they would use.

"I'm quite a quick learner, I learn songs as they're being played so it didn't take me long to be confident in speaking te reo, but whether I was good at it or not at the time is another story. It's about encouraging people, whether or not you think you're right or wrong, to just speak it."

Shortland, who now teaches te reo Māori, has being taking part in Mahuru Māori since 2016.

Shaquille Shortland is urging everybody to give te reo Māori a go.
Shaquille Shortland is urging everybody to give te reo Māori a go.

"It does encourage other Māori to pick up their Māori. If they can't quite understand me it makes them go 'oh I better go back and look up what that word means'.

"But it's also a really personal benefit and that's why I do it, so that I'm not losing the reo for myself at my level."

But there are also challenges.

"It is quite a hard thing to keep up te reo Māori when it's not the norm anymore and there's not just a neighbour that you can call up and speak te reo Māori, or your family.

"I was with a friend who wanted a Big Mac without patties, and I don't even like ordering that in English because it sound stupid and so that was a challenge. In the end I just ended up getting Filet-o-Fish - He Hamupaka Ika - and they understood that."