Te Reo goes global to help indigenous language

Mari Ropata-Te Hei and Te Rina Warren at the community centre in Nonoai.

Mari Ropata-Te Hei and Te Rina Warren at the community centre in Nonoai.

Te Reo is being used in Brazil to help revitalise and preserve the endangered language of the Kaingang people.

A programme by Brazilian and Massey University academics to support language revitalisation in Brazil saw Te Reo Maori language revival specialists travel to the small, remote village of Nonoai to teach aspects of Maori culture.

Dr Arianna Berardi-Wiltshire, a lecturer in linguistics from the School of Humanities, and her colleagues Te Rina Warren and Mari Ropata-Te Hei, lecturer and tutor at Te Pūtahi-a-Toi, gave talks to university students at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and visited village schools working on language revitalisation.

Berardi-Wiltshire said they worked with community leaders, indigenous education and government representatives.

"In support of the establishment of a full-immersion indigenous language preschool and school inspired by the principles of Māori Kohanga Reo and Kura Kaupapa centres in New Zealand."

Kaingang is one of more than 200 endangered, indigenous languages in Brazil, and the academics hope their connections will contribute to the wider issue of indigenous language revitalisation across other parts of Brazil in the future.

Warren said she was "humbled by the opportunity to share the history of Te Reo Maori and the subsequent journey of revitalisation with other indigenous peoples".

"Learning about the unique position of the Kaingang people was enlightening. It's heartening that there are a huge number of committed Kaingang people who are willing to re-educate their youth in their native language and in accordance to their customary practises." 

The women teamed up with Brazilian academic Professor Marcus Maia, of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. He visited New Zealand last year to give to talk about the revitalisation efforts in Brazil.

While here, he took an interest in Maori successes in language revival and saw an opportunity for knowledge sharing and exchange. Berardi-Wiltshire said the Maori example is famous around the world, because it is one of few success stories.

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"We started thinking about the ways the Maori experience in New Zealand might be used to inspire or inform or in some way support the language revitalisation on the other side of the ocean."

 - Stuff

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