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July 22, 2008 | by  | in Online Only | [ssba]

I’m down with Te Reo

A poll on the other day asked readers whether they would be making an effort to use Māori during this week, as it is Māori language week. The options were, YES a little, YES but I won’t go out of my way, NO I’m not good with languages, NO I don’t care. This struck me as odd, because Māori is one of the three official languages of New Zealand, and has been since the passing of the Māori Language Act in 1987.

This divide between the use of languages is startling when you consider only 4.2% of New Zealander’s can speak Māori fluently compared to the 98% who speak English. Compared to other bi-lingual countries like Canada, we are horribly apathetic in our teaching of our official languages. Once a year we roll out Maori language week, Salient publishes an issue predominately filled with Maori content, and Shortland Street drops in more Maori words.

So far we’ve had 5 letters to the editor complaining that we published the Maori issue. Most of them start with that back arching phrase “I’m not a racist but…” what should be inserted after that bears little resemblance to what the authors actually write.

What should follow that phrase is: I am too lazy/ignorant/racist to learn a basic knowledge of Te Reo and accord Maori culture the same respect that I do my own language/culture. Sadly none of the people own up to that.

The fact is this years Te Ao Marama issue was two thirds in Te Reo, and some parts even had translation! Te Reo is an official language of New Zealand, and although this does not mean you have to speak it, it does mean that you should give it the respect it deserves.

To come back to the stuff poll, we have are radars skewed slightly here. They’re asking if we’re going to use Te Reo this week, and this week only, when we should be using it, and celebrating it’s use more often than seven days out of three hundred and sixty-five. We should be educated in Te Reo and the people who speak it should not be afraid of others failure to understand them.

So I am down with Te Reo and you should be too.

Tena koutou Mihinui kia katoa

Ko Taranaki te maunga

Ko Te Henui te awa

Ko te whanau Wood te hapū

Ko Ngati Pakeha te iwi

Ko Seasnake te waka

Ko James Jackson Wood tōku tupuna

Ko Ngamutu te papa kainga

Kie Te whanganui a Tara ahau e noho ana

Ko Jackson tōku ingoa

No reira, tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou, katoa


About the Author ()

The editor of this fine rag for 2009.

Comments (8)

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  1. Naly D says:

    Its my understanding that there are only two official languages of New Zealand, Maori and sign language as English has never been formally made an official language. Wikipedia;
    “In New Zealand, English is a national language, but has never been recognised as an official language. NZSL became the second official language of New Zealand in April 2006, joining Māori.”

    Good article though and I agree Maori should be practised more. Learning about it for a week in primary school is not enough.

  2. Gibbon says:

    Actually, I came on to the website to ask about the number of funny little letters you had received (there are, without fail, many of these) but something you said intrigues me.
    So, to play devil’s advocate, I ask you the following:
    1. Why should people learn Te Reo when it is one of the world’s least used languages, globally?
    2. Is the fact that English is more universally spoken a major contributing factor toward the much smaller percentage of those who know Maori?
    3. Why is Te Reo more important than NZSL?

    Yeah… that’s me

  3. martli says:

    I’m pretty sure French is only spoken by the majority of Canadians in Quebec, then roughly half of Quebecois speak English, which I guess is probably for more practical reasons than anything else. The rest of Canada is about 98% English speaking and 7.5% French. Not really bilingual at all.

  4. Me says:

    i think that the maori issue of salient wouldn’t have had those complaints, had you provided more translations. If the whole point of it was to get the language appreciated and accepted, then you didn’t really do it any favours, because very few understood it . yes, one third was in english, but all in all, unsucessful. And why presume that those people were “too lazy/ignorant/racist to learn a basic knowledge of Te Reo and accord Maori culture the same respect”?. I wrote in, and yet i have more than a ‘basic knowledge’ of Te Reo, and fully respect the maori culture, but did not understand it.

    No Kudos to you this time, Salient!

  5. Gibbon says:

    o we get this fucking whinging every year
    just accept it you annoying kids

  6. Mint Chipx says:

    I wouldn’t care if Salient had more Maori permanently, I’d just want a traslation (ie articles in both languages) because while I do my best and know more than most people, my Maori is really basic and I can’t read full articles. I could do the crossword though, booyah!

  7. Nikki says:


    Tena Koutou Katoa
    No Wairarapa ahau
    Ko Kahuranaki te maunga
    Ko Takitimu te waka
    Ko te awa / moana
    Ko Ngati Kahungunu te iwi
    Ko Kahuranaki tōku marae
    Ko Nikki tōku ingoa

  8. Suz says:

    Ko Ngati Pakeha te iwi – same!!!

    Ko Seasnake te waka – hahahahahahaha! Yeah…

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