Acknowledging the mitamitaga and mana of Māori and Pacific names

Issue: Volume 101, Number 4

Posted: 6 April 2022
Reference #: 1HATar

A group of passionate, business-savvy students from Bishop Viard College in Porirua have developed a website to improve pronunciation of Māori and Pacific names.

A group of passionate, business-savvy students from Bishop Viard College in Porirua

A group of passionate, business-savvy students from Bishop Viard College in Porirua

What’s in a name? Often, a great deal – particularly for Māori and Pacific peoples. A name is whakapapa, family, history, community, culture and identity.

Bishop Viard College students Mannfred Sofara and To’e Lokeni say all names are gifts and often rich in meaning.

But, many go through life having their name mangled, and hearing it mispronounced constantly can be a challenge. For To’e, he knows this feeling all too well.

“My name To’e came from my grandpa on my mum’s side. I think that’s why I cared so much when somebody mispronounced it because I knew it was important to my family, so it was important to me.

“It’s not the best feeling, of course. Especially when I’d correct them, but they would still mispronounce my name multiple times.”

Brainstorming a solution

Mannfred, To’e, and a group of eight other Year 13 Bishop Viard ākonga worked together to create a website that helps New Zealanders say Māori and Pacific names correctly. 

“We sat down at a table and brainstormed common problems. One of the ideas that came up was how we all had our first or last names mispronounced. We took about a day to think of a solution – a website to help with pronunciation,” says To’e.

In September last year, the students launched their website Fa’amalosi (Be strong) – Say it Right. The website now features more than 800 names in six languages and has over 1,400 subscribers.

The Fa’amalosi – Say it Right subscription has a one-off price of $4.99 and features names in Māori, Samoan, Tokelauan, Fijian, Cook Island, Tongan, and Kiribati.

Users can click on the names to hear how to pronounce them correctly and read them phonetically. 

Mannfred and To’e say that by putting in the work and having a great team behind them, they also gathered help from students, teachers and their community. 

“We reached out to many people, who came through with their knowledge. This was helpful for us because we couldn’t do it all ourselves. You can see it as a group project with our entire community.” 

Bishop Viard deputy principal, Gina Lefaoseu is passionate about providing students with opportunities outside the classroom.

Bishop Viard deputy principal, Gina Lefaoseu is passionate about providing students with opportunities outside the classroom.

Advice for educators

Mannfred and To’e hope teachers will use the website to learn how to pronounce students’ names on their roll correctly. 

“It’s just that moment when a teacher incorrectly says a student’s name, and you can see the student feel so uncomfortable. For the first day, what kind of welcome is that?” says Bishop Viard deputy principal Gina Lefaoseu.
Gina’s advice to other educators is to try to learn students’ names and do your research. 

“Doing your research is important. It tells the student that you care and acknowledge that a name comes with much history and mana. It tells you who you are, where you’re from and your culture.”

Gina says she wanted the Fa’amalosi group to realise they could excel in business and technology. Her approach to their learning has involved providing the students with opportunities outside the classroom. Gina advises other educators with budding young entrepreneurs to do the same. 

“Look at your classroom environment. How much joy are they having? If they’re having joy, they’ll learn. Let the students lead, and provide lots of different opportunities outside the classroom to prepare them for the real world,” she says. 

Bustling business journey

From articles and live television to radio and podcasts, Mannfred and To’e and the eight other Fa’amalosi members have been given fantastic opportunities during their business journey. 

“Reflecting back to Year 12, we didn’t think we’d come this far into our business. We’ve received opportunities to go on the Morning Show with John Campbell, went on The Project and our local Samoan Radio. We’re also waiting on a New Zealand Today episode with Guy Williams,” says To’e. 

“All these opportunities gave us great experiences. We’ve learned how to face our fears and have improved on our public speaking. If you asked us these questions at the start of Year 12, we probably wouldn’t be answering this much.” 

The students entered their idea in the Young Enterprise National Awards 2021 and took out the Gallagher Award for Smart Technology. 
When asked about their plans for 2022, Mannfred and To’e say their group is looking into developing an app. 

“We’ve been given a certain amount of money to turn our website into an app. We want to turn it into an app because it is easier to access for everybody,” says To’e.

Ready to Say it Right? Karawhiua, give it a go and head over to link).

Listen to the new Education Podcast about Say it right(external link) on Podbean.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 11:58 am, 6 April 2022

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