The Māori language made some progress this week. It has not always been possible to say that of the annual Māori Language Week. The progress was on the airwaves.

Broadcasters got involved this time, and not just those on Radio NZ who have been injecting te reo into their greetings and reporters' sign-offs for several years.

Most of our broadcasters this time entered into the spirit of the week and took pride in being able to use a little of the language. So they should. A facility with spoken language is their profession and New Zealand broadcasters should regard it as a mark of professionalism to be able to incorporate this country's unique language in their work.

There is probably no more effective way to revive te reo than to have it heard on mainstream radio and television, certainly more effective than education - though that is important, too.


It is a pity this year's Māori Language Week again aroused debate over whether the language should be made "compulsory" is schools. That is a non-issue, just about all the curriculum is compulsory in primary school, where te reo should be. Young children learn languages more easily than older ones.

Our primary schools already give all young New Zealanders as much Māori culture as they can. They are limited by a lack of teachers proficient in the language, a deficiency successive governments have done too little to fix.

This Government sounds divided on the issue. It has announced an objective to "integrate" te reo into everyday learning in all primary schools by 2025 but Winston Peters resists the idea being compulsory.

No so former All Black captain Buck Shelford. The hard man credited with introducing the All Blacks to the right way to do a haka, tells us today: "If you can lean haka you can learn te reo." He said: "If it was compulsory in the schooling system we could have a multilingual country."

He is right. Children in many other countries learn two or three languages.
In doing so, they learn more than languages, they learn concepts and ways of thinking that broaden their minds. One day all New Zealanders will be bilingual and last week it felt like that day had got a bit closer.

In the meantime, we hear broadcasters pronouncing many of our familiar place names correctly and it takes getting used to. But it is catching. More credit to them.

14 Sep, 2018 5:25pm
3 minutes to read