New Zealand: Focus back on learning te reo Maori

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Mon Jul 21 14:58:17 UTC 2008

Focus back on learning te reo Maori


by Cherie Taylor cherie.taylor at

Returning to his homeland after a decade away Matthew Heke decided it
was about time he learned his native tongue - Maori.
The 40-year-old headed off to Australia with his young family in 1995
and returning to the shores of Rotorua in 2005, he took on the Te Ara
Reo course at the Rotorua campus of Te Wananga o Aotearoa - graduating
last year. From Ngati Whakaue, Te Roro o te Rangi, Mr Heke said
growing up around Owhata Marae at Hinemoa Point he always heard Maori

His grandparents Kataraina and Hohepa Heke always spoke te reo when
they spoke to his father Huwinui and other Maori speakers on the marae
but he had never picked up the language himself. "My nan and koro were
always speaking te reo. "The kids would just play together around the
marae. "We'd hear it spoken and we would learn about tikanga
[protocols] of the marae but not the language ... "There was more
focus on us getting a good education to get a good job than on
learning Maori," he said. Now he is on track with his native tongue.

"I never took Maori up at school but it is an important part of who I
am." He's not fluent in the language but can now pick up conversations
in Maori and uses basic te reo in his everyday life as a Credit Union
branch manager in Rotorua. "It's a learning journey. I pick things up
on Te Karare and Te Kaea and know what they are talking about," he
said. Te reo should be compulsory at school, Mr Heke told The Daily
Post. "You go to most other countries and people speak two languages.
English is their second language.

"Te reo is an official language of this country and yet we don't all
know it." He hopes people will use it as much as they can this week
with it being Maori Language Week. To celebrate the week, the Rotorua
District Council is displaying temporary bilingual signage around the
Civic Centre for visitors to view. Council's Maori research officer
Bella Tait said it was an unobtrusive way for council to participate
in the week.

"We have our own Maori language policy at the council and we hope the
signs encourage people to have a go at speaking Maori even if it's
just to say 'kia ora'," she said. This year the theme for Maori
Language Week is Te Reo i te Kainga - Maori Language in the home. To
learn 100 Maori words from greetings to place names surf the website

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