Each year, Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori means something different to me.
In the past, I have marvelled at public demonstrations and celebrations of the language. I have also queried whether the avalanche of support that comes about in certain spheres for this one week is a good thing.
There have been conversations which have left me feeling inspired and hopeful, while others have made me wonder whether some people even think about what Te Reo Māori means for New Zealand during the other 51 weeks of the year.
Always at the heart is the revitalisation of the language of this land and why that is important. As a Sāmoan New Zealander, understanding how to answer that question - both during and outside of Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori - has been a journey in itself.
One of my favourite conversations on the topic examines my own background. Funnily enough, it is set in a different country, culture and language. It is the conversation around how my parents and members of their generation were required to speak English at school in Sāmoa.
During those hours, Sāmoan was not permitted. I have heard humorous anecdotes about the quality of banter that comes about when children revert to trading insults in a language they are wholly limited in. I have also heard how Sāmoan remained the primary language outside school, meaning the level of language oppression that occurred has been significantly less than that levelled on Māori in New Zealand.
When we talk about my situation and generation, the conversation changes again. It is about growing up in New Zealand, and my inability to speak Sāmoan. It is about the loss of a language I had when I was young, that has disappeared over the years.
It is about trying to relearn that as an adult, when so much of my thinking and work is steeped in English. It's not until recent years that I have had the skills to articulate why I can't instantly launch into full and comprehensive conversations in Sāmoan, or on some days I'm just faster than others.
"Mum," I say. "Sometimes I have to translate how to respond in my head, even though I know what you're saying."
"Also, I'm kind of tired at the moment, so can I just speak in English?"
Her response is its own source of entertainment, and explanation into some of our differences. Often delivered with a tight smile and wide eyes.
"I don't understand Teuila," she usually says. "We were punished if we didn't speak English, so just did it. Not that much thinking involved."
Usually, I don't bother explaining that's not really how language learning occurs now. Almost always, I promise myself I'll be more diligent in completing the homework exercises for my gagana Sāmoa class and actually practising my fa'a Sāmoa.
While not directly related to te reo Māori, it is in these conversations that a big part of my support and alofa for this week comes about. Somewhere in understanding the importance of a week dedicated to the revitalisation of Te Reo, there always seems to be a space for me to reflect on the value of learning, or re-learning, my own mother tongue.
Perhaps it's the solidarity you share as a member of a colonised culture. While these islands and Sāmoa's each have their own history of oppressive policies and resistance, there are also unmistakable links between the treatment and suppression of language, culture and traditions across them.
Related to that are the ongoing impacts of colonisation both countries continue to grapple with. For me, ongoing efforts like Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori fall into that remit. It is one tool we have to combat discriminatory policies that resulted in the concerted and multi-generational loss of Te Reo for many Māori.
So, as we make space for more Te Reo in our lives this week, I encourage you to think about what that really means. Why have you picked up those extra phrases, or learnt that waiata?
Yes, it is definitely cool to kōrero, but how does this week relate to you and your background? Have you looked into your family's history to see what Te Reo Māori means for them? Is there a link to how the language has been treated in New Zealand over the years? As the conversations in my family show, the answers will differ widely. But, as I've found, reflecting on those adds another layer to this special week.