Te reo lessons at Puke Ariki

VIRGINIA WINDER
Last updated 08:27 07/08/2012

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More than once in a blue moon people can learn conversational language at Puke Ariki.

As part of the Taranaki Reo, Taranaki Tangata exhibition, lunchtime lessons are being held for the next three Wednesdays.

Tomorrow at 12pm, Te Reo o Taranaki kaiwhakahaere (manager) Mitch Ritai will be taking a session on nga kupu mihi (greetings), including ones particular to this region.

"When you meet someone or answer the phone, you hear 'kia ora' so this lesson will allow people to extend their vocabulary in terms of greetings."

Many already know morena and ata marie for good morning, but they may not have heard moata rarau. "That's another greeting for good morning. It's not one in common use but it is one that is used in Taranaki."

As well as the commonly used farewells haere ra (goodbye to someone leaving) and e noho ra (goodbye to someone staying) there is one send-off that's totally Taranaki. That is "a te tau titoki".

"A titoki is a well-known tree in New Plymouth and it grew a lot around Te Henui River, so for us it's quite a relevant tree.

"You never know when [the titoki] is going to fruit, so the saying means: 'We will see you again in the next blue moon' or 'when the time arrives', because you never knew when you'd see that person again'," he said.

Titoki berries would be boiled to extract the oil for women's perfume. This use of the berry and the farewell saying link to a famous story told in a carving that can be found in New Plymouth District Council's headquarters.

"When Potaka laid siege to Parihamore pa and won the hand of Urukinaki, the women anointed her with titoki oil," Mitch says.

Next Wednesday (August 15), the lesson will be on wahi and kakahu (places and clothing) and the following week (August 22), kai and taputapu (food and household items) will be on the menu.

Taranaki has its own dialect, which is different to most parts of Aotearoa.

"Our language is very distinctive. It's very important to us in Taranaki and the other iwi who are connected to Taranaki in Waikanae, Wellington, top of the South Island, and the Chatham Islands. In these places their iwi is Te Atiawa and again it's important to them too," Mitch says.

A great example of how te reo is varied all over New Zealand is the pronunciation of the word whakarongo (to listen). In Taranaki it would be said "wakarongo", up north it becomes "hakarongo", Tuhoe would say "whakarono" and Ngai Tahu pronounce it "whakaroko".

Mitch, who will be teaching the classes, has a passion for sharing te reo. "You see the moment when the penny drops for people and they just get it - those are great moments."

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All these lessons will be held on level 2 of the museum at Puke Ariki, beside the exhibition Taranaki Reo, Taranaki Tangata, which runs until August 26.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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