Backyard banter: Let's celebrate Maori language

‘‘Language is the most effective way of preserving a culture.’’
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‘‘Language is the most effective way of preserving a culture.’’

We've got a lot to be proud of as New Zealanders, so it's important to celebrate the things that make us unique on the world stage.

We have our beautiful scenery, native flora and fauna, and a rugby team that hardly ever loses. But there's one cultural aspect that we possess right here that you can't find anywhere else.

The Maori language is an essential part of who we are, whether you can fully fluent or can barely say 'kia ora'. Chances are you come across it on a daily basis or grew up in a town with a Te Reo place name.

Looking around any city you'll see it on signs and other official documents, as it should be as an official language of this country.

As someone who identifies as Maori, I feel more than a wee bit embarrassed about the fact that I have little knowledge of how to speak or read it myself. It's not because I wasn't given the opportunities, it simply wasn't on my radar growing up.

However, since I was a kid there has been a definite shift in attitudes to get pronunciation right - you can hear it on the news and through other official channels. Of course, many people have grown up hearing the incorrect pronunciation of these places, so it's only natural for them to keep on with that habit

Getting it right is really important. Language is the most effective way of preserving a culture, so getting it right now means children can grow up learning the place names you'll never find anywhere else. There's an Auckland in England, a Hamilton in Canada, but you won't find a Whanganui or Taupo anywhere else in the world.

Te Reo is a wonderful introductory language for children as well, as the phonetic structure is relatively easy to learn. This interest in bilingualism will go a long way to furthering their development in language; you only need to look to Europe to see how widespread that skill is. Most educated Europeans are well versed in another language, often English, so the habit of learning another tongue aids them in their travels.

As well as in school, there are many Maori language courses in most communities for people of all ages. It's a great way to come together and be a part of New Zealand's own unique culture and cross paths with other members of your community that you might otherwise never meet.

It also means you can confidently represent the unique Maori culture we have wherever you go, whether it's the other side of the world or just down to the dairy.

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Where to go to learn Te Reo Maori

* Download posters, matching cards & colouring pages of food and supermarket items in Māori from the SuperValue and FreshChoice websites.

* Ask on Neighbourly.co.nz for others to learn the language with or for info on community classes

* Tune in to language learning show Tōku Reo on Māori Television (or watch online!)

* Visit the Maori Language Commission website

* Head to http://www.maorilanguage.net/ - we love their 50 words every New Zealander should know

* The Maori Language Dictionary: http://maoridictionary.co.nz/

* Check out the National Library of New Zealand Services for Schools website for more!

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