Learning te reo 'needs to be compulsory in primary schools,' educator says video

ROBERT CHARLES/Stuff.co.nz

Early childhood teacher Hana Corbett is learning Te Reo.

Working as an early childhood educator has given Hana Corbett's te reo Maori journey a leg up.

The ABC New Plymouth teacher has spent much of her 33 years immersed in the Maori culture and developing her knowledge of the language.

And now she has 66 little sponges, all equally excited to soak up the rich language, to korero, or talk, with.

Why I learned te reo

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Corbett's interest in learning te reo Maori began as a young, fresh-faced primary school student. It was the late 80s, early'90s when nationwide initiatives to revitalise the language were launched and the then Palmerston North resident was a benefactor of this spirit.

"It was a huge focus when I was at school but I feel like it started to die out a bit during the early 2000s."

Following her primary and secondary schooling, Corbett began studying towards her degree and it was then she was reminded of the importance of te reo Maori.

Early childhood teacher and te reo Maori student Hana Corbett promotes bilingualism in the centre she works. Clockwise ...
Robert Charles/Fairfax NZ

Early childhood teacher and te reo Maori student Hana Corbett promotes bilingualism in the centre she works. Clockwise from left, Hunter Ngaia, Khloe Briscoe and Charlotte Taylor, all four.

"Once I started getting involved with teaching it sort of progressed from there, it's also part of our professional development.

"It's something that I've become really passionate about."

The mother-of-three believes her appetite for the language was inspired by being a Kiwi. It was about embracing the country's cultural identity, Corbett, who is non-Maori, said.

Furthermore, she said the holistic approach of te ao Maori (the Maori world) particularly resonated with her.

She is currently studying Poupou Huia Te Reo, an advanced language programme, with Te Wananga o Raukawa, and is about to jump aboard another learning waka, having enrolled in a te reo Maori night class at Witt, this time with her family in tow.

Corbett and her husband encourage bilingualism in the home, something their children, aged two, four and 12, have all happily accepted.

"My kids love it, especially my four-year-old, she loves to do karakia. She's always singing and has lots of actions and phrases down."

Being able to fuse her passion for te reo with her career has helped Corbett with her own journey but also gives her hope for the future of the Maori language.

"I read that only 21 per cent of Maori are using it regularly, which I think needs to be worked on. It definitely needs to be compulsory in primary schools. Something needs to be done," she said.

With the support of her colleagues, Corbett is doing her bit by ensuring her preschoolers are exposed to as much Maori culture as the centre's resources allow. 

"We want it to be a normal part of the centre routine so we talk [in te reo Maori] with the children when we're at the kai table, or doing a puzzle or playing outside.

"The kids have responded really well, it's amazing what they pick up and also what they take home - the feedback we get from their whanau about their learning with te reo is amazing."

Options for te reo courses:

Te Wananga o Raukawa - www.wananga.com

Te Wananga o Aotearoa - www.twoa.ac.nz

Te Ataarangi - www.teataarangi.org.nz

Western Institute of Technology  - www.witt.ac.nz

Phrases to try at home:

Tirohia tenei pikitia ataahua - Look at this beautiful picture

Nau tenei i tuhi? - Did you draw this?

 - Stuff

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