I moved here as a child with my parents in 1988. Even though that was almost thirty years ago, I still consider myself a ‘recent’ immigrant. I’ve always felt slightly uneasy about how little reo I speak, and so late last year, I decided to do something about it.
I enrolled for a course at Unitec, at their Māori language school called Kura Pō. I have now completed the tahi course (stage one) and the rua course (stage two). When life settles down a bit, I plan to enroll in the toru course (stage three)!
In the meantime, I’ve really tried to embrace all things te Ao Māori (the Māori worldview). I figure, it is the very least I can do as an immigrant to this country.
As I’ve learnt more and more about te Ao Māori, I’ve become increasingly exasperated by the mainstream representation of all things Māori. When the Green Party proposed, as a policy, compulsory te reo Māori in schools, there was a veritable uproar across the country. Keep in mind, this is a policy from a party that has had, at most, 11% of the vote. While they are the third largest party in the country, they are hardly going to sweep in and rule the roost. Yet, the mere mention of one of NZ’s official languagesbeing taught compulsorily in school was enough to unleash a racist furore that still has certain pundits frothing at the mouth.
I won’t wade into the latest debate over whether or not we should continue to have Māori seats in Parliament. Unlike other people who have, I really don’t feel that I have any say in the matter, and thus my opinion matters very little.
I would like to talk about how much I have enjoyed, and am enjoying learning about all things te Ao Māori. It’s a much cheerier subject and one that gives me no end of joy in a lot of my day to day interactions. The classes at Kura Pō are amazing. If you are based in Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland) then I would highly recommend them. They aren’t just a language course, it really can be considered a primer to living in Aotearoa (New Zealand).
I’ve tried to include te reo in things that I do, and when I do especially when writing, I am super careful about spelling and especially careful placement of tohutō (macrons). I work hard at my pronunciation. The way you say things, especially people’s names, is a mark of respect, and if you are deliberately not trying at all, well then that doesn’t really bode well.
I started a group online to join together learners of te reo Māori. If you are learning, or are thinking of learning, please come and join us. It is called Roopu Te Reo and we use Slack to communicate with each other. At last count, there was over thirty people, so plenty of people to practise with.
So, this is the start of my te reo Māori journey… they say every journey starts with one step. I say every journey is better with a friend. Are you learning too? I’d love to hear about your journey. Come join us at Roopu Te Reo.