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Interest in te reo ‘encouraging’

A launch day for Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori [Māori Language Week] at Hau Ariki Marae, Martinborough. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Māori Language Week
During Te Wiki o te Reo Māori [Māori Language Week], the Wairarapa Times-Age is publishing a story a day highlighting the language’s local significance.

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Throughout this week, Aratoi, Wairarapa Museum of Art and History, will be offering free activities and resources in their foyer and gallery spaces, for all ages, in celebration of Te wiki o te Reo Māori [Māori Language Week].

Maraes across Wairarapa were also putting on a variety of cultural events.

Māori Language Day fell on September 14 and kicked off a week’s worth of national activities.

This year’s celebrations began on Monday and run until September 20.

It seeks to promote New Zealand’s indigenous language.

The initiative commemorates the presentation of the 1972 Māori language petition to Parliament, which called on the government to offer te reo in schools, and for greater recognition generally.

More than 30,000 physical signatures were collected, and the presentation to Parliament became the starting point for a significant revitalisation of te reo in the 1970s.

In the decades leading up to the petition, there were reports that children had been routinely beaten by teachers for speaking te reo on school grounds, as well as minimal cultural visibility in official channels.

“Māori language week is an opportunity for concentrated celebration, promotion and encouragement,” its organisers said.

“And every minute of every hour of every day is a Māori language minute – we can choose to use te reo – every time we do, even just a ‘Kia ora’ contributes to revitalisation.”

Rawiri Smith, environmental manager of Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairarapa, said that the interest shown in the language was encouraging.

“It’s pretty exciting actually – now there’s a wide interest, so people have been lining up to get into te reo classes and they’ve been oversubscribed, so there’s a national interest in that.

“There’s opportunities in terms of wider teaching in schools.

“There’s an argument about whether it should be compulsory or not, but I think people at least think it’s a good option to have on the table.”

Smith said Wairarapa was at the southern point of Kahungunu, and approximately central Rangitane, due to there being Rangitane on the South Island also.

He said that the regional dialects of te reo were quite easily intelligible and described some interesting differences.

“In Kahungunu, we might say tipuna [ancestor], and other places might say tupuna, so while they’re different words, they’re not hugely different words.”

Tai Gemmell, general manager of Kahungunu ki Wairarapa, said that, while he supported greater adoption of te reo, Māori Language Week could be seen as “a little bit tokenistic”.

“I share the thoughts with a lot of other people that, if anything, the language should be far more integrated on a day-to-day basis.

“When it comes to television for example, there’s still not enough of it being integrated into broadcasters’ protocols – basic pronunciation of place names has a long way to go.

“I know there’s been a lot of positive work done on this, but there are still national advertisements saying place names incorrectly.”

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