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Celebrating Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori: Jacinda

12.37pm 17 September 2021


Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa
Ko Tai o Aorere te moana
Ko Waimea te awa
Nō Whakatu ahau, e noho ana ahau ki Whakatiki
Nō Pōrana nō Peretania ōku tupuna
Ko Harrison tōku ingoa whanau
Ko Jacinda Funnell tōku ingoa
Nō reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēna tatou katoa

I would like to share a whakatauki.

Te manu kai miro, nōna te ngahere; te manu kai mātauranga, nōna te ao.

The bird that eats the miro berries, theirs is the forest; the bird that consumes knowledge, the world is theirs.

I love this whakatauki for a number of reasons.  I’ve always been a voracious reader and consumer of knowledge. For me, reading is the way I make sense of the world, and so this proverb really speaks to me.  It also conveys a sense that knowledge is as nourishing and necessary for life as food.  

I started learning te reo Māori last year (I don’t think learning the a-e-i-o-u song at Brownies when I was 7 counts!), with a 10 week introductory course through Te Herenga Waka - Victoria University of Wellington.  This year, I am receiving some tutoring, from one of the kaiako (teachers) from Te Herenga Waka.  I’m accompanying that with the learning on the Tōku Reo website.

Nā te aha koe i ako ai te reo Māori? Why did you decide to learn te reo Māori?

I decided to learn because I believe that language is a window onto culture and, as a Pakeha New Zealander, I want to better understand Māori perspectives and experiences. Whenever I have travelled overseas, I’ve always made the effort to learn a basic greeting in the language of the place I am visiting.  I was starting to feel embarrassed that I couldn’t do a lot better in the language of the place that I am from. I want to be able to have a simple conversation in te reo Māori, and to understand what is being said on a marae.  Finally, I love language, and there is so much richness in te reo Māori. The little exposure that I had to it (for example through the Te Whare Tapa Wha framework for holistic health) made me want to know more.

Ki ō whakaaro, he aha ngā take nui e ora ai te reo Māori? What are the main issues you feel facing the survival of the Māori language?

I think there is such a wonderful, supportive environment in Aotearoa New Zealand now for learning te reo Māori.  There are lots of online resources, classes and books to access and learn from. And I have found that Māori colleagues in Customs have been incredibly supportive of my humble efforts.  It is also clear that there is real appetite in the community (and in Customs!) to learn more about te reo. These things are all really positive.

Learning a language is hard though, and it doesn’t happen by osmosis. Learning more than some basic greetings requires me to commit time every week to learning and reinforcing that learning. I think one of the hardest things is that the pronunciation can seem really daunting, and no one wants to get it wrong.  I’ve found that you do just have to be brave and give it a go. What I have also found is that if I say to more capable speakers that I am learning, they are really supportive and help me with my pronunciation.

He aha te mea nui i ngakau nui i te reo? What are you passionate about in te reo Māori?

So this is going to make me sound like such a nerd, but I really love the grammar. It is so much simpler and more logical than English!

He aha ngā mea painga o te wiki o te reo Māori ki a koe? What does Te Wiki o te reo Māori mean for you?

It means an opportunity to share my passion for te reo Māori with others, and encourage more people to learn. The more of us who are learning, the more we can practice with each other, and get even better! Karawhiua!