Free te reo Maori lessons popular

JANE DUNBAR
Last updated 05:00 25/07/2014
Joshua Toki, left, and Regan Stokes
JOHN KIRK ANDERSON
Ngā mihi : Joshua Toki, left, and Regan Stokes begin their classes in te reo Maori at Burnside High School.

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Regan Stokes is a young English teacher at Burnside High School, but also has another ambition as a teacher - to give free community night classes in te reo Maori. 

Stokes, 23, has both Maori and English heritage, but only visited a marae for the first time when he was 19.

Since the Maori world has opened up to him, he has become increasingly eager to enable others to understand and use te reo. 

So he and two friends, Joshua Toki and Damien Taylor, have started offering free five-week courses (two hours, once a week), which for the keen, can be followed by another more advanced five weeks.

''There are many great full or half-year courses offered at institutions such as Te Wānanga o Aotearoa,'' says Stokes.

''But many people aren't able to commit to a full 36-week course due to work, life and whānau commitments. I wanted to offer a short five-week course so that people could easily dip their toes in to see if they enjoyed learning te reo Māori.'' 

The course is run at Burnside High School. Luckily, the school has a big staff room because up to 70 people have been turning up for the beginner classes. 

''I have been blown away by the amount of interest,'' says Stokes, who on Wednesday night started the third set of beginner classes for the year.

''It's great to see so many people interested in learning te reo Māori in Ōtautahi. 

''There's a huge range of people coming along. We've had people of many ethnicities attend as well,  which has been wonderful.'' 

Stokes believes class attendance reflects a growing respect for te reo.

''I think we're finally starting to see te reo Māori as a taonga not just for Māori, but for the whole of Aotearoa. 

''I think a lot of people my age and older have been put off learning Māori because they've been taught a few basic numbers and colours at primary school in a non-engaging way, and because of that the language doesn't appeal to them. But te reo Māori does have a huge depth of meaning and character, so I hope that those people are willing to give the language another go because it can be hugely engaging and rewarding.  

''Living in a country that encourages biculturalism and multiculturalism has significant benefits for everyone, and I'm really proud of the way Aotearoa is acknowledging its past more in order to pave a brighter way into the future.'' 

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For more information about Stokes' classes, see http://akomaori.wordpress.com/

- The Press

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