Learning te reo Māori and loving it!

(Repost from LinkedIn)

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.

I’ve started using an app called Tipu Te Reo Māori (available on Google Play, and Apple App Store). It’s a great thing to play with when stuck on public transport or just before bed every night!

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.

It’s my birthday!!!

It’s my birthday this week and in looking round my house I see that I have entirely too much stuff… and also with the hashtag #IAmMetiria we are reminded (once again) that there are a lot of people who are not so lucky.

I do happen to know that a lot of YOU are not quite in such dire circumstances.

So, if you were so inclined (and you really don’t have to) OR you were already planning on getting me a present, then please, instead, donate to one of these charities…

OMGTech! – https://givealittle.co.nz/org/omgtech

I’ve been volunteering with OMGTech! since day one. I have been lucky enough to get to do more and more with them recently. There are many many kids out there on the wrong side of the digital divide. While you might be thinking that this isn’t as important as food or clothes, I urge you to rethink. There has been lots of talk about the Future of Work recently, but organisations like OMGTech! can see that it isn’t the Future of Work, but rather the Future of Life. Everything is moving online, pretty soon if you don’t understand tech, you won’t be able to vote, or even access medical services. OMGTech! bridge that divide, they help kids access tech that would never get a chance to.

The Aunties – https://givealittle.co.nz/cause/kapawhaea

I’ve been helping out with The Aunties for a few years now. I don’t have as much funds as I would like to help out more…and everytime I read a tweet from Jackie or read a blog by Michèle, I feel increasingly helpless. It makes me so sad that we need to have these services in Aotearoa, but we do… and The Aunties do an amazing job here in Māngere, Tāmaki Makaurau.


She’s too young… or is she?

Today, NZ Herald’s Nicholas Jones summarized some of the changes coming in the Education (Update) Amendment Bill, with emphasis on the change from starting school after your birthday to a cohort start. In short, this means that a child will be allowed to attend school from the first day of term, if they are turning five in that term. Which could mean a bunch of kids start school at four.

When I heralded this news on social (see what I did there) a friend linked me to an NPR article pointing out that Finland, long lauded as the ‘best’ in education, start their kids at 7… in fact, that same article noted how, by age 15, Finnish kids are “outperforming all but a few countries on international assessments” – I’m guessing this is alluding to the PISA global assessment.

I’d also like to highlight another point in that same article: “Despite the late start, the vast majority arrive with solid reading and math skills”, and in fact in the very next paragraph… “over 97% of 3-6 year olds attend a [preschool] program of one type or another” (emphasis added)

On the other hand, Aotearoa is hovering around the 54% mark.

In fact, it’s not even about the ability to read and do math. Studies have shown that it is the very act of listening to language (any language) that makes the most difference. If we cannot push for universal pre-school care, then rushing the kids into school faster is not necessarily a bad thing. Otherwise, what we are doing is increasing that gap at a vitally important stage in their lives.

I have two children. They are now 9 and 6. I am extremely lucky, in that I can afford to give them extra-curricular activities. Before they started school, they both had rudimentary literacy and numeracy skills, and now I’ve extended them further with after school tutoring… as a result… my nine year old is doing algebra and about to start on calculus and reading chapter books that would floor some adults. For those that cannot afford to do that, having the children in formal education as early as possible is the only way that we can close this gap.

I feel saddened every day when people claim some kid is smarter than some other kid. More often than not, you are looking at years of opportunities that the other kid didn’t get, let’s not hold back our kids anymore.

PGP Encryption and why should you care?

This is a quick overview of PGP Encryption and how to use it yourself! Bulk surveillance violates everyone’s fundamental human rights, it makes free speech risky. This guide will explain what email encryption is (using a commonly known standard called PGP) and will teach you how to use a free tool called mailvelope. Remember, even if you have nothing to hide, using encryption helps protect the privacy of the people you are communicating with, and makes life difficult for bulk surveillance systems.

This video includes closed captions, click on Youtube’s closed caption option if you are hearing impaired.


Haere mai ki te Aotearoa

When travelling, sometimes you remember things that you have let sink into your subconscious. One of those things for me is the fact that I grew up (for the first eight years anyway) in Malaysia. When you are a person who lives in Malaysia, you don’t even think about the fact that things are announced in at least two, sometimes three or four languages. So as we get off the Air Asia flight today, they announced the notices in both English and Bahasa Malay.

Why does Aotearoa’s national carrier not do that?

Air New Zealand should announce everything in te Reo as well as English. (Don’t even get me started on sign language! How are deaf people meant to know what the pilot just said!! What if it was important!?)

It will not only help to create that unique point of difference for tourists, it will also help to normalise the use of te Reo in everyday situations. It’s time we stopped just using te Reo as a touristy gimmick and actually started incorporating it into our everyday lives… I, for one, would love to be welcomed back home to Aotearoa in te Reo.

Agile…or am I?

In the current span of my career, i’ve had many and varied training courses but none have blown my mind like the one I did last week with Sandy and David from Nomad8. In fact, i’ve specifically done courses on facilitation in the past and I can honestly say none have even come close to this one.

I’ve been dabbling in Agile for a wee while now, and recently brought in Agile methodology to a non-dev environment, but the chance to spend two days really thinking about what it means to be an Agile facilitator was amazing.

The other participants were from a range of much larger companies than the people I normally get to meet, and it was heartening to hear that people are much the same everywhere. The same issues that everyone has running meetings (or planning/executing a project) are normally due to personalities rather than skills or environment… and that really simple facilitation techniques (tricks even) can make a world of difference.

I won’t talk about it too much, after all, I wouldn’t want to be accused of #spoilers! If you are at all interested in Agile, all that i’ve heard about the courses at Nomad8 is good things, and now I can vouch for it personally!