Te reo Maori still cause for concern

04:05, Aug 11 2009

In the lead-up to Maori Language Week, beginning next week, Maori Language Commissioner Erima Henare says the language is still in a perilous state.

"Complacency is our biggest enemy in language revitalisation," Mr Henare says.

"There is a perception that with the increased presence of Maori language on television, on the radio, and in schools, that the language is secure.

"However this is not the case. Statistics from Census 2006 show that only 23 percent of Maori adults have the ability to speak Maori ‘about a lot of everyday things’.

"Translated into numbers this means that there are about 131,600 speakers," he says.

"According to the Health of the Maori Language survey 2006, only 14 percent of this population are proficient speakers, meaning that of a population of 565,000 Maori people, there are only 18,000 fluent speakers. It’s a sobering statistic.

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"What conclusion can be drawn other than to say the language is still in a perilous state."

Mr Henare says better collaboration between agencies and organisations across private and public sectors is what’s required in order for language revitalisation to be achieved.

"At Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Maori – the Maori Language Commission – we know that the critical aspect of te reo Maori revitalisation is ensuring that supports are in place to create this thing we call ‘intergenerational transmission’, which basically means ensuring te reo Maori is the default language of the home spoken between the various generations of the whanau", says Mr Henare.

"To that end we also acknowledge the importance of community in supporting this to occur which is why we have designated Maori Language in the Community as the theme for Maori Language Week this year.

"It is also the reason we have developed strategic relationships with organisations and businesses that influence whanau and
community environments."

He says Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Maori is also jointly leading a review of the government’s Maori Language Strategy with Te Puni Kokiri.

"It is the view of Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Maori that the strategy would be better aligned to supporting language initiatives which revitalise hapu and iwi dialects and other successful community-based projects.

"These various programmes form a fundamental platform for the normalisation of the language into the wider fabric of the nation’s identity and culture."

Northern News