Learning Māori Language Made Simple & Fun

Māori and New Zealand’s Very Own Culture

If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head.
If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.”

(Nelson Mandela)

Language is more than just words we use to communicate with each other. It’s an expression of something beyond – it’s an expression of our emotions and our feelings.

Just imagine that you are in a foreign country and you get into a quarrel with someone (that shouldn’t happen though). The person is very angry with you and is continuously abusing you, but in their native language (which you don’t understand). Will you feel bad? Will you be angry?

Nope. You won’t. Actually all of it might sound funny. You might actually be laughing at them. This, in essence, is the power of language on our minds and our emotions.

Indigenous Languages And Their Importance For A Nation

Every language holds a sacred meaning for its community. Whether spoken by a handful of people in a small village or by millions of people all around the country, language can unite, create a sense of belonging and give its people a way to connect with each other.

Language is the glue that keeps generations connected. That’s how stories and lessons of wisdom are carried from generation to generation…through fathers teaching their sons and grandmothers telling stories at bedtime.

So what happens when a language is threatened to go extinct? An ancient culture and their history might completely vanish with it. Leaving us with a barren desert of nothingness.

Did You Know?
There are 370 million Indigenous peoples today, representing over 5000 cultures and speaking a majority of the world’s estimated 7000 languages?

Researchers have warned that around 90% of these 7000 languages could be lost by the end of this century.

I wish the respective governments take steps before it’s too late and revive them because without a language:

  • you do not have cultural autonomy
  • you do not have intellectual sovereignty
  • you do not have culture
  • you do not have heritage.

Did You Know?

Having realised the irreversible consequences of a language’s death, the United Nations have dedicated a lot of work to ingenious languages, encouraging their preservation and revitalisation. In fact, the year 2019 was dedicated entirely to it.

Te Reo Māori – The Native Language Of New Zealand (And Why We Need It).

In the past, New Zealanders could communicate in their native Māori language fluently. But the number of Māori people who could hold a conversation in the Māori language has decreased over time.

Where in 2001 the percentage of Māori language speakers was around 26% in NZ, the number reduced to around 21% around 2013.

This decrease is majorly due to the influence of other languages and the shift of people from speaking their local language to a foreign language. Also because economically, other languages are more important for the new generations to learn – I get that.

But maybe we can embrace the new as well as the past. Both.

You will notice that the number of older Māori people having a conversation is much higher than the young ones. This shows how important it is to pass on the cultural values, native language, to the younger generation for a community to preserve their history and heritage.

Did You Know?

The capital city of New Zealand – Wellington is called Te Whanganui a Tara in Māori language.

Māori language and its culture has always been a pride for New Zealanders. The culture has deep ethical and moral values associated with it.

Meeting Māori people will tell you how close they are to nature. They can speak and understand the language of nature. They tell you about the sounds of the jungle, the magic of the night and association of the man with the animal.

Also, Māori culture gives great importance to their family, loved ones, friends and guests. Manaakitanga is all about welcoming guests and providing great hospitality, something which all New Zealanders pride themselves on.

Time Has Changed – It’s Māori Time

New Zealanders are taking an interest in learning their native language. And that makes me so happy. As a te reo Māori educator, I am so proud of everyone who gives time to learn our language.

The number of teenagers studying te reo Māori at secondary school has passed 30,000 for the first time.

People have started buying Te reo Māori language books and making it one of the essential items in their house.

Te reo Māori is already being taught in many schools already, including Auckland Grammar which made it a compulsory subject in 2016 for Year 9 and 10 students. There are waiting lists across the country to get into part-time te reo classes.

Certain teachers who are experts in the language have started their online course where a person can learn effectively within a few months. I, Dr. Rāpata Wiri is one such expert who has helped hundreds of people speak the Te reo Māori language fluently.

Learning Te reo Māori has not only helped people preserve their cultural heritage, but has also produced job opportunities in the country and worldwide.

People from across the globe are interested in learning this fun and simple language and this has created numerous jobs, online teaching professionals, teaching through social media, which has also helped the nation to grow its economy. Various toys are now being produced with Te Reo written on them for people to easily understand the language in their day to day life. Also many books are being published in the market which also add up to the personal and country’s growth.

Did you know?
School is known as Kura while teachers are called kaiako in Māori language.

Easy Tips To Learn Te Reo Māori

The Beginning

Everything seems difficult when we start. But as soon as we progress further we see noticeable changes at the work that we started.

Same goes with Te reo Māori. At first you might feel heavy on your mind that you aren’t getting things right. Just start small. Rome was not built in a day.

Consider learning Te Reo as a lifelong marathon rather than a 100-meter sprint. Make everyday count and start by using words for everyday items that we see around the house or the common activities that you do. Like–

Common things

Toilet – wharepaku
Table- teepu
Chair- tūru
Laptop- rorohiko kawe
Supermarket – hokomaha

Common activities

To fall down – hinga
To sing- waiata
To dance- kanikani

Surround Yourself With People Of The Same Mindset

We all know that there is certain strength in numbers. Start surrounding yourself with people who are like-minded and the ones who are learning Te Reo Māori.

This will help you build your community of Māori speakers and you will start learning quickly by having conversations with them.

Even if it’s for an hour a week, make time to connect with like-minded te reo Māori soldiers in the battle for language revitalisation.

Keep A Close Check On Your Pronunciation

Te reo Māori is all about sounds of the vowels and their pronunciation. Get a hold of that and there you go. In no time you will notice that you are able to have a good conversation in the language.

The vowels a,e,i,o and u have real importance. And A macron placed over a vowel can completely change its meaning.

Check This Out:

mata  means ‘raw’ whereas mātā means ‘heap’.

mana means ‘prestige’ whereas māna (where ā has now become a long vowel with a macron over it) means ‘for him or her’.

arā means ‘there it is’  ‘Arā te motokā’’ means ‘There is the car.’ However, ara means ‘pathway’.

koko means ‘scoop’ in te reo Māori, while kōkō means ‘bell-bird’.

Did you know?
The Māori alphabet consists of diphthongs which is a combination of two vowels which are pronounced together to make a distinct sound.
‘ae’  ‘ai’, ‘ao’, and ‘au. These can be combined with consonants
8 consonants- hae, kai, mao, nei, pau, rou, tae, and wai.
2 digraphs- whao and ngau.

Challenge Yourself

A little pressure put on ourselves helps us to thrive better and manage things more effectively. Challenge yourself in between your journey of learning Te Reo Māori. Don’t shy away. Ask yourself to learn at least 40 words in a certain week. Try to go beyond your limits and see the difference.

Try committing to things such as the Mahuru Māori initiative (speaking only te reo for all of September), you’ll be sure to hit some language ‘personal bests’ when you put yourself outside the warmth of that all-too-familiar comfort zone.

Explore – For There Are Endless Things To Discover

Learning a new language tells you about a different culture, their history, their evolution and certain facts that could be mesmerizing.

Prepare yourself to enter a whole new world and explore the depths of Māori culture. Their countless stories will instigate a sense of love and you will want to know more and more about their culture and the language.

PS: You can enroll in an online course and seek help from a professional teacher that has expertise in the language. REO ORA is one such online platform where you can learn the language from basics and go on to its advanced stage within a couple of months.

The modules start from level-1 teaching of the language and go on further. Dr. Rāpata wiri teaches here who has an overwhelming experience of over 25 years.