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Friday, 22 March 2019 08:21 pm

LISTEN: Our native tongue in three homes.

New Zealand has three official languages, English, Te Reo Māori, and Sign Language but Te Reo Māori, the language of our native people has struggled to survive after colonisation.

Te Reo Māori was the predominant language of New Zealand before 1840, but ten years later the Pākehā population passed the Māori population, causing Te Reo Māori to become a minority language.  

Māori Television journalist, Kawe Roes was taught Te Reo Māori by his elders.

“I was raised with Te Reo as my first language, I went to a total immersion school where Te Reo was spoken every day,” he says.

Kawe says he was one of the fortunate people who were raised by their old people, who still had the language on their tongue.

“I’m one of the few people who were raised by a generation who were native speakers,” says Kawe.

Whitireia Te Reo Māori teacher, Peta KiriKiri was one of the test babies when the kōhanga reo movement begun.

This movement immersed Māori pre-schoolers in the Māori language by sending them to Te Reo only pre-schools, the first kōhanga Reo School opened in Lower Hutt in 1982.

“Te Reo Māori was my first language until five, it was my predominant language, it was the language I was most confident I’d say,” says Peta.

Peta says that once he turned five things changed.

“I got to five years old and there was no catch net for us (children in Kohanga Reo) we just had to go back into normal mainstream schooling,” He says.

However Law student Janaye Henry wasn’t raised with Te Reo Māori, and had a different upbringing.

“My upbringing was predominantly European, in saying that I went to funerals, tangis that were more Māori influenced so it was cool to have a foot in culture,” Janaye says.

Janaye says because she was raised In Tauranga she is unsure if she missed out on anything.

“I think because where I was raised and the schools I went to I don’t know if it would have made much of a difference, if I could speak Te Reo,” Janaye says.

According to the Te pūrongo oranga tangata census in 2013, only 21.3 percent of all Māori reported that they could hold a conversation in Te Reo Māori about everyday things.


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