9 Myths About Learning The Māori Language

Contrary to popular belief, language learning is actually very easy.

In fact, most learners would argue that it is a fun, engaging, and adventurous process that truly left them relishing the entire experience. Learning the Māori language is unique because it’s more than just about learning.

As you learn the Māori language, you get to immerse yourself in the Māori culture, you connect with their beliefs and you get a true feel of what the Māori people are all about. It enriches your cultural cup and strengthens your presence on the international scene.

But it’s sometimes weird when we come across certain ideas. People have opinions about learning the Māori language that we feel are incorrect, and that’s what we are going to debunk today. Let’s have a look at the 9 common myths we commonly encounter about learning the Māori language.

Myth #1: You Need To Be A Genius To Learn The Māori Language.

Most people assume that if you are multilingual, then you must be clever or somewhat talented.

But in reality, that’s a lie.

Anyone can learn a new language (especially the Māori language). In fact, some might argue that Māori is probably the simplest non-Polynesian language to learn. If you find it hard, then it all comes down to is your approach to it, be it in your mentality or maybe the learning method you are using.

Nobody is born good at a certain language, it’s through practice and constant exposure to the realm of people who understand that language, that they become exceptional and when it comes to the Māori language – it’s no different.

Of course, at first you might struggle at first with maybe the grammar and some word pronunciations that’s perfectly normal but give it time, practice daily through speaking it, expose yourself to new words daily, let it build it up within you, and within no time, you’ll see how easy learning the Māori language actually is.

Myth #2: It’s Impossible For An Adult To Learn The Māori Language.

Yes, it’s true, as we age more, language learning becomes less natural. That’s because of the decrease in neuroplasticity, which makes the brain much harder to change but the idea that it’s impossible to learn the Māori language because you are an adult is completely misleading.

If we are truly honest, learning the Māori language has never been easier. Back in the day, you might argue that there were probably fewer opportunities to do so. You had to go to physical classes or maybe had to live with the Māori people for a long time before you grasped the language. From a lack of time to difficulty in accessibility, these were really huge hindrances.

But now in the technology-ridden world, learning the Māorii language is as easy as it could ever be. We have really good online courses, taught by scholars of the Māori language. You get to go through a complete curriculum filled with practice sessions that will leave you oozing of the Māori language. You can now access leading experts in the Māori language, that you previously didn’t have access to.

And what’s really amazing about these online courses is that you get to do it at the comfort of your home in your own free time (preferably off-work hours), so the idea that learning Māori language is hard as an adult should be completely wiped off.

Myth #3: Learning The Māori Language Is Expensive.

This is completely untrue.

Maybe in the past, this would have somehow made sense, not only did you have to pay for the tutor’s expertise but you also had to travel to get to the tutor. And plus the tutors didn’t come cheap. You had to really dig into your pockets to get them to work with you. Right now, the playing field is totally different.

Number one, you don’t have to travel (That’s completely off the table)

Number two, online tutors nowadays are much more affordable.

And on top of that, we also have various study options, payment plans and financial support options that can make your language learning options more affordable. So the excuse that learning the Māori language is expensive is regressive. If you really wanted to, you could start your process of learning the Māori language as soon as today. Right here and right now.

Myth #4:You Have To Live With The People Speaking The Māori Language.

Many people have never come to New Zealand, yet they speak the Māori language flawlessly, even better than the natives at times.

Yes, maybe your language learning process might be faster in a setting where the language is spoken but to say that it’s a must for you to be there to actually learn it is incorrect. It all comes down to your interest in the language and how willing you are to learn it. Being in the location where the language is spoken allows you to get extra insights on their culture and you will also see the language being put to use in its natural setting. But besides that, you are totally capable of grasping the entire Māori language system without having to live with the Māori people.

Myth #5: You Can Learn The Māori Language In A Few Months.

This is normally misguided. To learn any new language, you need to invest time. Not only time in learning, but also time in practicing, then you would have to rinse and repeat this process to become exceptionally good at the language.

If you are talking beginner level, then maybe a few months would make sense. But to become fully fit in the Māori language, to a point where it could open doors for you socially, politically or economically – then you would need some years. And the fact that many people are not able to learn the language full time makes it even more true.

Now, we are not saying this to disappoint you or discourage you, but it’s to inspire you to embrace the process because good things take time. Don’t feel pressured to rush it by either someone or society, understand your purpose for learning the language and use that as your compass to guide definitely through the entire process.

Myth #6: You Can Self Study And Become Really Good At The Māori Language.

With the advent of the internet and the emergence of popular language learning apps such as Duolingo, it’s easy to think that any language can be self taught.

While in fact, that isn’t the case, the hope that reciting a couple of sentences and a couple of words a day is going to make you fluent, is false.

All languages are made of shells and inner cores. With the self teaching methods available, you are only exposed to the shells (the general and basic stuff). But to become respected and fully renowned at the Māori language, then you need to gain access to the inner core of the language. And that’s something that only the Māori language experts can teach you. They have been in the game for a while and they understand deep things that apps or books would never dare to tell you. Not even the best apps or books could ever replace the power that a real conversation with a real teacher has on your ability to learn the Māori language.

Myth #7: You Have To Study Grammar.

This is total propaganda that will only leave you scared of wanting to learn the language. Just like in English or any other language, the grammar aspect comes with time.

You don’t have to beat yourself memorising grammar rules, or going through grammar manuals. Trying to learn grammar at the start only slows you down and at times it disheartens you because grammar can get quite confusing (especially for a new language like Māori).

At the very start your focus should only be on five things:

Learning vocabulary.
Learning to speak.
Learning to listen.
Learning to read.
And learning to write.

Grammar is only meant to polish you. And the good thing with grammar is that it can even come organically.

When you constantly practice the language and interact with people who have mastered the language – the grammar will naturally be instilled in you. So relax, don’t be scared, you can start learning the Māori language without having to worry about grammar.

Myth #8: You Should Learn To Read And Write At The Same Time.

Spoken fluency and written fluency are different.

And most people learning the Māori language sink into the trap of trying to accomplish both at a go. In fact it’s advised you learn to speak the language first before opting to write it down on paper. When it comes to language learning, it’s better to do things sequentially rather than simultaneously. Not only does it promote easier understanding, but it also leads to better overall understanding.

Myth #9: Learning Māori Language Is Unnecessary With Modern Translation Technologies.

We have translation tools like Google translator or Bing translator which might have you thinking that you can translate just about anything. Indeed, they are great tools, but they are nowhere close to replacing the true value that having a language like Māori in your skillset brings.

If your use of the Māori language is not purposeful, then maybe opting for translation technologies might seem suitable.

But if your purpose is to:

Get job opportunities
Gain travel opportunities
Grow socially and politically
Grow on a personal level

Then the Māori language is one you should definitely add to your repertoire.


Māori is more than just a language, it’s a people. When you learn the language, you are building connections. All these myths above are false and they should never veer you away from your target. Learning the Māori language will open so many doors for you and it will widen your landscape in life. So regardless of what you might have thought or heard, it’s absolutely rewarding – so take the time to revel in what it has to offer.