Kohanga reo keeping language alive

Last updated 05:00 25/07/2012
Trina Maxwell with her three-year-old daughter
TE REO IN THE FAMILY: Trina Maxwell with her three-year-old daughter.

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As she watches her 3-year-old daughter burble excitedly in Maori, Trina Maxwell feels pride at the revival of the language.

"It shows that all the hard work our tipuna [ancestors] put in was worth it."

Ms Maxwell attended New Zealand's first kohanga reo, Pukeatua in Wainuiomata, as a 2-year-old. Thirty years later, she helps run it as assistant manager.

She remembered kuia (female elders) coming to Maori lessons when she was a child. Many had not used Maori since their youth.

"That is the most beautiful thing about te kohanga reo."

She stayed at Pukeatua until she was 5, when she went to a mainstream primary school. She found the change hard at first because she couldn't speak much English.

However, learning Maori young helped her pick the language up quickly, she said. Pukeatua celebrated its 30th anniversary this year.

It now has a combined roll of 101. This week is Maori Language Week, with the theme of Arohatia te Reo, meaning to cherish the language.

It is 25 years since Maori was declared an official language of New Zealand.

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- The Dominion Post

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