Today is the start of Māori Language Week, with 'Kia Kaha te Reo Māori' as the chosen theme for 2020. To celebrate, Kristin Macfarlane looks at learning te reo as an adult.
Panapa has performed in front of thousands of people all around the world but reciting his pepeha in te reo Māori has been one of his most nerve-racking experiences.
At 32, Panapa has started his te reo journey after years of feeling incomplete — a void left by not being able to fluently speak his native language.
The founding member of Kiwi band Sons of Zion is about seven weeks into his te reo journey now and his initial feelings of being too whakamā (shy) to speak it are dwindling away, becoming more confident in giving it a go as part of his learning.
"I think the biggest thing is just to speak it.
"If you're wrong it's better to be corrected so you can say it right," Panapa said.
Being Māori but unable to speak te reo fluently is something that has always weighed heavily on Panapa.
As an entertainer, a lot of his work dried up when Covid-19 struck. Having more time on his hands meant he was able to turn his focus on to other projects — and that's when he committed to learning his language.
He and one of his close friends, fellow entertainer Stan Walker, signed up to a level two te reo programme at Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi's Whakatāne campus.
"I've always had a void ... it's not filled yet but I definitely feel good that I'm working towards it."
Panapa said being able to take on the journey with his mate, whom he also lived with, meant they were able to practice, support and hold each other accountable in their journey.
They attend class twice a week, along with a group of people from diverse cultural backgrounds and ages, who all have their own reasons for wanting to learn.
One Pākehā couple were learning because they had Māori grandchildren, he said.
"It's a cool environment," Panapa said.
"It was really welcoming."
However, the journey hasn't been without feelings of unease.
When the class was tasked with reciting their pepeha, going back five generations of their whakapapa (genealogy), Panapa said it was probably one of his most nerve-racking experiences but it's one he valued deeply.
"For me and Stan it was like a big deal, it was quite nerve-racking."
He knew his pepeha to a certain degree but not as intricately as what was asked of him and, as Māori, he kind of felt he should have. But since undertaking the journey of strengthening his relationship with te reo, his hunger to learn more also grows.
"The more we do it the more it's becoming a priority.
"The more we go the more value we find in it."
Extremely proud to be Māori, Panapa said he would continue learning te reo well after his level two programme ended at the end of this year. His only regret was not starting sooner.
Panapa said he wished his parents encouraged him to learn te reo growing up and now as a parent himself, that's something he will do with his own daughter, 4-year-old Lyla.
According to the 2018 Census, 8.6 per cent of the Bay of Plenty's population of 308,499 speak te reo.
Bay of Plenty-based tertiary providers that provide te reo programmes includes Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi, Te Wananga o Aotearoa, Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology and the University of Waikato. Other programmes are also available through communities and online via other tertiary providers and organisations.
Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology's associate dean of te kura Māori, student engagement, study and career progression Heddell Raerino said they had 34 occurrences of te reo-based courses across their campuses in Rotorua, Tauranga, Taupō, Tokoroa and Whakatāne throughout the year.
Most were blended learning, which were on site with an online component, he said.
There were a total of 1043 students enrolled in te reo-based programmes, with 574 studying at the Rotorua campus.
Raerino said the courses catered to all ages, from teens up to people in their 80s, with the majority of learners over the age of 30.
"We also get a lot of enrolments from grandparents who are keen to learn te reo so that they can share the language with their grandchildren."