An increase in people speaking te reo Maori could be explained by three different groups showing an interest in learning about Maori culture, a Marlborough marae manager says.
According to figures released by Statistics New Zealand, the number of Maori people speaking the language in New Zealand has increased since 2001 across all age groups, except those aged between 25 and 34.
But Omaka Marae manager Kiley Nepia said it wasn't only Maori who were showing more interest in learning the language.
Those enrolling in the Te Wananga o Aotearoa courses offered by the marae were made up of Maori people wanting to form a stronger connection with their culture, people who worked closely with Maori people, and immigrants or international visitors to the region, Nepia said.
"What we are finding is particularly with those people [immigrants], they live in a multi-lingual society so for them coming into New Zealand it makes sense for them to learn te reo, because [that is] the gateway into Maori culture."
According to the statistics, the largest increase in Maori adults who had the ability to speak some Maori was those aged 55 and over, with an 84 per cent increase from 47,000 in 2001 to 86,500 in 2013. Next were those aged 45-54, who jumped 60 per cent from 49,500, to 79,000 people with the ability to speak some te reo.
There was a 29 per cent increase in the number of Maori adults aged between 15 and 24 who could speak some Maori. The only decrease was for those aged between 25 and 34, who had a 2.8 per cent decrease, from 88,000 to 85,500 people.
It was a nice surprise to see a positive uptake in the community of people being more receptive to learning te reo Maori, Nepia said.
Te reo Maori is the second most commonly spoken language in New Zealand, behind English, particularly among those who identify as Maori, according to the 2013 census.
Nearly 15 per cent of Maori living in Marlborough speak the language, as opposed to 2.2 per cent of the general Marlborough population. Of the 43,416 Marlborough people who completed the census, 4776 identified themselves as Maori.
- The Marlborough Express
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