Going beyond the basics for Māori Language Week

Issue: Volume 97, Number 11

Posted: 25 June 2018
Reference #: 1H9jMH

This year’s theme for Māori Language Week, running from 10 to 16 September, is “Kia kaha te reo Māori” – “To make the language strong”. We spoke to reo Māori educators and teachers about how they take te reo beyond the basics in the classroom and ways in which kura can celebrate Māori Language Week this year.

To reo Māori educators and teachers taking te reo beyond the basics of the classroom

Tertiary education provider Te Wānanga o Aotearoa won a Māori Language Award last year for its Mahuru Māori initiative, which encouraged te reo speakers to use only te reo for a month. It is running Mahuru Māori again this year with the goal to increase participation to over 2,000 people.

“We want everyone on board – as many people as possible. It’s been shown through our research to be right-shifting from people who are passive to active but the improvement would be to boost the numbers participating,” says Te Wānanga o Aotearoa poutiaki Paraone Gloyne.

“It’s an empowering exercise for the person who does the challenge, it’s also empowering for the language [and] on a spiritual level, it feeds the mauri of our reo.”

Teachers can use traditional Māori hand games or string games, known as whai, to teach te reo, Paraone says. There are also Māori board games like Mutōrere, which is similar to Ludo.

Those schools that do not have knowledgeable reo teachers should connect with their local kura kaupapa “rather than looking at Google for the answers”, says Paraone. 

There are also Facebook pages teachers can join, such as ‘Māori for Grownups’ which is administered by television host and reo expert Stacey Morrison.

Finding community support

NZEI president Lynda Stuart says that it is important to know where to find support in the local community.

“I think that is the reaching out to find those people with the knowledge – sometimes that is reaching out to the local iwi, it’s maybe understanding your area more and knowing where those people are,” she says.

Māori Language Week 2018 is about strengthening the language, but many teachers are hesitant to go past the basics.

Springlands Primary School teacher Craig Sedgwick says teachers are sometimes reluctant to use the language as they are worried they may be seen to be offensive if they make a mistake.

Craig is passionate about normalising te reo in schools and tries to use Māori as often as he can to increase student exposure to it.

“The only place you can go to hear te reo Māori spoken is New Zealand and to be honest, there are only one or two places you can hear te reo spoken fluently, so unless we’re going to do it as educators, there’s nowhere else in the world that is going to take on the challenge of sustaining an indigenous language that is a national treasure.”

“I think almost every child in New Zealand knows “e tu” and “haere mai” so you’re just taking a couple of steps further and exposing the children to full sentences and specific nouns and verbs so the children are actually growing knowledge of the language.”

New te reo resources available

The Ministry of Education has a number of resources with Māori translations for science, maths and arts so teachers can bring more Māori words into different subject areas. The Māori Language Commission is also releasing new te reo resources as part of Māori Language Week 2018.

But it isn’t just about teaching Māori words or sentence structures. Teachers are encouraged to teach Māori songs in music class, or educate students on the cultural significance of the local geography. Students can even learn about Māori astronomy with further resources from the Society of Māori Research and Traditions.

‘Kia kaha te reo Māori’ is about changing the perception of te reo as a dying language, Māori Language Commission Communications Adviser Colin Feslier says.

“It is about celebrating Māori as a living language that has withstood great challenges. So we’re saying ‘Kia Kaha te Reo Māori’ – be strong in your approach to it, use it, look for new opportunities to use it – we’ve got fantastic resources, so use them.”

Colin says schools should hold events that celebrate the Māori language and get whānau and the wider community involved, such as the parade held in Paeroa by the local primary school last year.

“Celebrating and making the Māori language visible is part of the background to successful learning and use.”

One of the best ways to improve the status of te reo Māori is to increase the number of bilingual signs, such as translating the push (peia) and pull (kumea) signs on doors, which are available on the Māori Language Commission website, says Colin.

“When you see Māori used in signage like that it changes your feeling about the language – you think, it’s not just for domains that you’d think of as Māori, it is all domains.”

So, this Māori Language Week, connect with reo experts in your school or community and introduce more kupu Māori into the classroom. Teach your students about Māori astronomy, sing a waiata or play Māori games. Translate the signs around your school into te reo or even throw a parade. There are a multitude of te reo resources available so the opportunities are endless.

Karawhiua! Go for it!   

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 9:10 am, 25 June 2018

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