Maori Language Week is in full swing and, although schools are celebrating te reo in their lessons, the language remains marginal in South Canterbury.
This year's Maori Language Week programme, Te Kupu o te Wiki, aims to teach participants 50 Maori words during one year.
Waimataitai School teacher Lynn Wingfield said the school gave te reo tuition every week to pupils who wanted to learn, and the school would be teaching its pupils new words daily during Maori Language Week.
At Beaconsfield School, teacher Kay Stevenson said each class was working on a special project on Maori myths and legends for the week.
Ani Haua, a Maori teacher at Mountainview High School, said she gave free 36-week courses to people "from all walks of life" at the Aitarakihi Marae and Multi-Cultural Centre.
Enrolment for the 2015 course begins at the end of this year. In the meantime, Haua advised beginners to develop their basic skills on the korero.maori.nz website.
The latest census results show 612 Timaru residents can hold an everyday conversation in Maori.
The figure is slightly higher than it was in 2001 but is half the New Zealand per capita rate.
In the Waitaki district, the number of Maori speakers has fallen by 23 per cent since 2001, according to census figures.
Local MP Jacqui Dean, who is taking part in the Kupu o te Wiki programme, said she was unaware of the decline but the figure was "disappointing".
Tongan was the second-most commonly spoken language in the district.
- The Timaru Herald