It's Te Wiki o te Reo Maori - Maori Language Week but for kohanga in Rotorua, it's business as usual.

Tarewa Pounamu Te Kohanga Reo teacher (kaiako) Mereana O'Brien said every week was Maori language week for the 19 tamariki (children) she and kaimahi (workers) taught. The children range from 9-months-old through to 4-years-old and consist of not only Maori but part Pacific Islanders and European.

A day at kohanga would start with a karakia (prayer) followed by a hymn and waiata (songs). After morning tea they are taken through lessons.

"We speak only te reo Maori here. We are Maori, a unique race and we want to keep the reo alive," she said. Mrs O'Brien has been teaching kohanga for nine years and learnt the language as a child.

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"I love mingling and interacting with the tamariki and just seeing them learn is a thrill. They are not only learning the reo but also tikanga (customs)," she said. "Te reo Maori is not just for Maori but for everyone and we encourage others who are interested in learning taha Maori (Maori side)."

Te Wiki o te Reo Maori started today. This year's theme is Te Kupu o te Wiki - The Word of the Week. A new Maori word will be highlighted each week for 50 weeks by the Maori Language Commission.

More on pages 6-7.