NZ: Bilingual skills becoming the norm

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Wed Jul 25 13:01:08 UTC 2007

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Bilingual skills becoming the norm
Three Maori, three Maori speakers.

The bilingual skills of Wellington men Roihana Nuri, Lewis Moeau, and
David Tokohau Samuels are increasingly the norm, a study reveals. The
Health of the Maori Language survey shows young Maori especially are
taking to te reo with gusto. The survey asked nearly 4000 Maori about
their Maori-language ability and use. It showed an increase in the
percentage of Maori who could speak te reo since the last survey in
2001, with the rise especially strong among young people. There was a
13 per cent increase in the number of 15 to 24-year-olds able to speak
more than a few words and phrases in te reo, and a 16 per cent
increase among those aged between 25 and 34.

The number of highly proficient Maori speakers more than doubled among
the 15-to-35 age group since 2001. Mr Nuri, 28, said he had grown up
with te reo, and he now spoke it to his young son. Te reo was more
valued now than when his parents were growing up, he said. Neither of
them speaks Maori.  "At the time, my grandmother thought she was doing
the best for my mother by immersing her in English, but when she grew
up she felt like she was missing something."

Mr Samuels, 47, a Te Puni Kokiri policy director, developed his Maori
language skills at St Stephen's Maori Boys' School near Auckland. He
said that 20 years after it became an official language, te reo had
become embedded in New Zealand society. Mr Moeau, "approaching 70",
grew up speaking te reo, but said this was rare, with his friends
discouraged from using it.  "They were punished. I'm not sure exactly
how because I wasn't there, but they were punished."

Mr Moeau said the survey results were "satisfactory and pleasing".
Maori Affairs Minister Parekura Horomia said New Zealand could once
again become a country in which everyone spoke Maori.  "I say this not
as a fanciful whim but as an imperative."
He said the fact 17 per cent more adults were speaking Maori in their
homes to  reschool children than in 2001 was especially encouraging.
"Of course, we have some way to go before we can say the reo is a
healthy, living language, but let's not forget how far we have come to
save it from a state once described as perilous."

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