Student to trace teens' te reo

TALIA SHADWELL
Last updated 12:03 06/12/2012
Hinurewa Poutu
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TEACHER TURNS PUPIL: Massey PhD student Hinurewa Poutu with her own pupils, from left, Parekaia Tapiata, Te Aorere Pewhairangi, Kohuko hurangi Isaac-Sharland, Tawaroa Kawana and Sean Bevan.

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A Massey University student will trace the path of Te Reo Maori among teenage speakers to track the language's survival beyond immersion classrooms.

Palmerston North PhD student Hinurewa Poutu hopes Te Reo Maori will be compulsory within New Zealand schools within the next 50 years.

But without the teaching resources, she says New Zealand has a long way to go. After all, her own grandparents were strapped for speaking their native language in the classroom not so long ago.

"Te Reo Maori is in a critical phase - it is living, but some say it is in survival mode at the moment," she said. "In terms of language revitalisation, Wales and Ireland are the example."

Mrs Poutu will set out to find out how factors such as teenage rebellion and media consumption affect the language's survival in later life. "What we find is that many teens, not just in their language learning, but in their behaviour, will resist and prefer to speak English, and there is no avoiding [English language-orientated] Facebook or Twitter . . . Once they hit their twenties there seems to be this newfound appreciation and a sense of feeling quite fortunate that they are bilingual."

Mrs Poutu teaches at Palmerston North's Te Kohanga Reo o Mana Tamariki, and has also worked as a presenter, Maori language consultant, and media producer.

"My parents instilled my passion for the language, it started at home. It is my first language and I feel quite fortunate to be able to say that because not many people of my generation who were born outside of their tribal areas can say that. We call it a a ‘taonga' - a treasure - and I think it's a national treasure."

Her mother, Penny Poutu and father Tony Waho were co-founders of Mana Tamariki, and both were instrumental in the early stages of the Kura Kaupapa schooling movement. Theirs remained the only state school in the country requiring one parent of each pupil to speak to the child exclusively in Maori at home, Mrs Poutu said.

Mana Tamariki, where Mrs Poutu teaches, had its highest number of graduates this week. Five pupils have finished NCEA level 3, most having had a full immersion education.

This year's graduates include Te Aorere Pewhairangi, recently signed to Australian NRL rugby league team Paramatta Eels, Tawaroa Kawana, a finalist in the just-screened New Zealand's Got Talent series, Kohukohurangi Isaac-Sharland, recently accepted into Otago University's health sciences programme, Parekaia Tapiata, to study resource management at Massey, and eco-farm worker Sean Bevan, who will study computer design.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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