Academic stresses the value of te reo

SUSAN STRONGMAN
Last updated 05:00 20/05/2014

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If the revitalisation of te reo Maori is not taken seriously, a large section of New Zealand society will lose its way in the world, Dr Ruakere Hond says.

The New Plymouth man, a recent doctoral graduate of Massey University's school of public health, said language was an important part of people's lives, shaping communities, social interactions, and cultural relevance.

"The way people view language revitalisation needs to change dramatically," he said.

Millions of dollars had been spent on language acquisition for the individual rather than holistic language revitalisation within communities and the focus needed to be placed on the latter.

If the focus was on individual language acquisition, momentum generated by teaching organisations would dissipate once courses were completed, unless te reo Maori was continually used in communities.

He said the Government was starting to recognise and act on this.

Hond, who is of Taranaki, Ngati Ruanui and Te Atiawa descent, spoke to about 200 people at Parihaka Pa on Saturday, alongside fellow doctoral graduate Dr Acushla Dee O'Carroll, whose research looked at the impact of social media on Maori culture.

Hond's seven years of research, under the supervision of Sir Mason Durie and with the help of South Taranaki academics Drs Mihi Ratima and Will Edwards, focused on three main areas of language revitalisation.

He said there was a lot of misuse and misunderstanding associated with the current methods and reasons behind the revitalisation of te reo Maori.

He said the role of the language in community development and the way it affected community identity needed to be focused on.

He said the revitalisation of the language was an intrinsic part of the promotion of Maori health and well being, and was a key element enabling greater control over determinants of health, such as education, employment, housing and the environment.

He said at present language revitalisation did not focus on health outcomes.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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