This week we celebrate Te Wiki o te Reo Māori (Maori Language Week) and it is actually quite sad that we need a special week to encourage use of the language.
But here it is, and it has been great to see many embracing the opportunity to learn a wee bit, especially here in Rotorua as we strive to become bilingual with the Rotorua Reorua initiative.
Growing up in Rotorua, I took for granted that the rest of New Zealand was also learning the basics of the language, just like I was at school. Unfortunately it's not the case.
I have fond memories of early lessons, singing and performing at Lynmore School through to high school as an option subject.
Should it be compulsory in schools? I say yes.
Some will argue that they would never use it – well remember all that algebra and calculus that was and still is compulsory?
I would argue there is more opportunity for the majority of us to regularly use basic Māori than basic algebra.
The language is unique to our country, and we all need to be doing our bit to protect it.
On that note, I am doing my bit, and am happy to say that over the past couple of months I have been taking te reo Māori courses through a programme run by the Mokoia Community Association.
For years I have used only the most basic of Māori words on the radio, or used pre-prepared speech notes at some of the local events I have hosted.
But I'm hoping that will change over time and I can do it myself.
I've never learnt a second language before, so I am finding that process just as interesting as the language itself.
So I'm not sure whether the fact I'm understanding sentence structure better than individual words is normal or not, but overall I'm really enjoying the challenge and looking forward to learning more.
While I am still in the early stages of learning the language, I have always felt confident in my ability to handle the correct pronunciation and verbal delivery of te reo Māori.
Over the years I've been widely praised by many, and have on many occasions been the chosen voice for local and national advertising campaigns because of this.
However, after one local event that I MC'd, someone felt the need to complain to the event organiser about, what in their view, were my disgraceful attempts at speaking Māori.
And to me, this is why we have an issue with growing the language.
I am confident in my abilities and believe the complainant was the one with the problem. But isn't it better to encourage people to try the language, instead of shooting them down?
If it was an MC who was not quite as confident in their abilities, that person may never feel comfortable using reo on stage or in front of a crowd again.
I think this attitude from someone who should be an advocate for this mantra is disappointing to say the least.
And to finish this week on a positive note … my wife Katie and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary this week.
I'm often asked how she handles my workload, with the constant events and time away from home.
I do wonder myself sometimes, but she is well used to it by now, and understands the work roles.
She has constantly been by my side, a rock and a great mother to our kids.
The 15th gift is traditionally crystal, or a watch is the modern gift.
But instead of a watch, it was more the gift of 'time' as we celebrated this week. And maybe that's a sign of things to come in 2022.
Paul Hickey is the host of the local Rotorua show on The Hits Rotorua weekdays between 9am and 3pm. Listen on 97.5FM or download the iHeartRadio app. Follow The Hits Rotorua and Paul on Facebook and Instagram.