Top 10 Reasons Your Children Aren't Speaking Your Language
By Corey Heller
Wondering why your children are not speaking your language? It is hard to say why one child will gladly speak a second (and third and fourth) language while another will resist it. Below are the top 10 most likely reasons why they are not. Do some of these resonate with your multilingual family's situation?
Let the countdown begin…
10. Patience: Give it some time! You and your child both have to get used to this. Even if you are a native speaker of your child's minority language, it can take a while to figure things out. And once you are completely on board, take the journey one step at a time. Don't rush your child, it will only make things worse. Remember, you are raising a multilingual child, not trying to win a race!
9. Comfort: Do you or your child feel uncomfortable speaking the language? Make sure you don't embarrass your child by asking her to speak the language out loud in front of others or to use the language in uncomfortable situations. Start in the comfort of your own home and go from there. Sometimes it is the parent who is uncomfortable using a minority language with his/her children, even if it is a native language. If this applies to you or your child, then talk about it as a family. Work out the areas which cause the most embarrassment or why it might feel uncomfortable.
8. Age: Our children go through phases in their lives. Their relationship with their minority language will be experienced along these same patterns. If your child is going through a phase where he wants desperately to fit in at school, then rejecting a minority language may be part of this process. Be gentle with your child and address language issues just as you would other changes in your child's behavior. Try your best to find out how your child is feeling overall. If appropriate, talk with your child about how speaking the minority language feels to your child. Work on finding a compromise so that both you and your child can feel good about speaking your language.
7. Resources: Does your child have a good source of language resources? I'm not talking about language-learning text books (unless your child gets a kick out of them)! I'm talking about making sure your child has interesting books in only the minority language. A good supply of DVDs, video and computer games, board games, etc. all in the minority language can come in very handy as well. Without resources to keep their language stimulated, our multilingual children can easily get bored with what is available and will be more inclined to turn toward community language resources (which are so very plentiful!). Find out what interests your child the most and see if family can send over some specific materials – or perhaps you can order some online?
6. Not setting an example: What kind of example are you for your child? Are you using your language as much as possible or are you speaking the community language most of the time with your children (and not even realizing it!)? I can't tell you the number of parents I talk with who insist that they speak their language with their children ALL the time. But when I visit these same parents, they spend the majority of the time speaking with their children in the community language without even realizing it! Believe me, it is very, very easy to fall into this pattern! You can solve this by (1) being very aware of when you are and are not speaking your language with your children and then (2) switching to your language each time you catch yourself speaking the community language. (3) Ask yourself why you tend to speak the community language with your children as much as you are. If you can find the sources for that question, then you are already one step further along the path toward solving it!
5. Teaching not Living: Raising a child in a minority language is about living the language, not teaching it as if it were another subject in school! You need to live the language and impart that love of the language to your children through your way of life, not via language-learning text books. This means speaking it as much as possible: while cooking, driving the car, picking up books at the library, going shopping. Make it part of every element of your every-day life. Make the language magical! Make it sparkle for your children by singing songs and doing dances from your culture, telling fairy tales you grew up with, and sharing stories about your childhood in your home country. Even if it isn't your native language, you can find unique cultural and linguistic elements to bring into your lives. When your children are older, then you can pull out the grammar books. For now, make the language a part of your everyday life.
4. Enjoyment: Is using a minority language fun for your children or difficult and boring? Are you and your children enjoying using the minority language or has it become drudgery? Make sure you are finding ways to make using the language a joy: play games in the language, chat about fascinating to pics, visit friends and places where the language is spoken. Don't let yourself get to the point of drilling the language into your children's heads. That is the best way to make your children hate the language. Many parents in my seminars have told me how their children started using their language after they received a game that was only in the minority language. Not only did the game help encourage language use, it also brought the family together!
3. Consistency (not rigidity): Does your child know who speaks which language and when? Are you going back and forth, speaking different languages randomly? It isn't the end of the world if you don't have a perfectly consistent language pattern (and switching languages back and forth isn't a crime) but a clear plan will make your language journey so much easier. Ultimately, your young child wants to please you and she can do this best if it is clear what is expected of her. If your child is confused or frustrated by not knowing what is expected, then it is very likely that she will simply stop speaking the language. But watch out! Don't let your consistency plan turn into a rigidity plan! You need to make sure that your plan is serving you, not trapping you! You are allowed to change your plan whenever needed but if you do, make sure to meet as a family to decide on what the new plan will be. Then give the new plan some time to be fully implemented and assessed.
2. Need: Why should your child use his minority language? If your child can get everything he needs via the community language, then there is really no NEED to use the minority language. A need can come in the form of many different things: to play a game, to speak with others who only speak the minority language (family, travel to another country), to understand a book or DVD in the minority language, to get something that he wants. Some parents go as far as to refuse to answer their child unless the question is in the minority language. I never did this with my kids but for some families it works well. This is where you will have to be creative based on what resources you have available (Can you hire a nanny who only speaks the language? Can you travel to a country where the language is spoken?). Need can come in the form of that which is most familiar: a child often will speak the minority language with parents simply out of habit (it would feel too strange if they didn't)! Remember that each child is different so a need for one child may be very different for another. Get creative!
1. Not Enough Exposure: Are your children exposed to their minority language regularly all week long? Would you say they are exposed to it around 30 percent of the time (on average)? 30 percent is not the magical number. It will not guarantee multilingualism in your child! There are too many factors that work together to count! However, we can use 30 percent as a general number to aim toward. 50 percent? 80 percent? Wonderful! The chances are so much better for bi/multilingualism with exposure like that!
NOTE: The idea of a minimum of 30 percent language exposure in the minority language came from a group of researchers who were doing studies on bilingual children. When deciding on what the minimum minority language exposure would be for the children in their study (in order to say that a child was living in a bilingual environment) the researchers decided on 30 percent. Does this mean that less than 30 percent is not enough? No way! But be aware that you might not see as much regular progress in your child's language mastery as you would hope to see.
When it comes to the amount of language exposure, use your common sense with this. If the spouse who speaks your child's minority language is working 40 hours a week, then it is going to be much more difficult for your children to receive enough exposure than if the native-speaking spouse is with the children all day. You may need to find additional ways that your child can receive language exposure to reach an average of 30 percent: a nanny, friends, family.
And remember, if your child receives less than 30 percent exposure, that is no reason to give up! Sometimes less exposure can have more of an impact than we know! Just allow yourself to adjust your expectations to match your family's language journey and see where you can add more language exposure along the way. The gift of language is priceless, no matter how much language exposure your child receives!
Archie Thompson dies at 93; Yurok elder kept tribal tongue alive
April 7, 2013
By Lee Romney, Los Angeles Times
Archie Thompson, the oldest living member of California's Yurok tribe and the last known active speaker raised in the tribal language, has died. He was 93.
Thompson died March 26 at a Crescent City, Calif., hospital after an apparent stroke, according to his daughter Sherry O'Rourke.
"It's our language that truly gives us our identity as Yurok people," said Thomas P. O'Rourke Sr., the tribal chairman and Thompson's son-in-law. "He is very much responsible for preserving not just a way of life, but the identity of a people."
Thompson was one of a handful of remaining full-blooded members of the Yurok tribe, which numbers nearly 6,000 members and is California's largest. He was also the last of about 20 elders who helped revitalize the language over the last few decades, after academics in the 1990s predicted it would be extinct by 2010.
He made recordings of the language that were archived by UC Berkeley linguists and the tribe, spent hours helping to teach Yurok in community and school classrooms, and welcomed apprentice speakers to probe his knowledge.
It paid off: A recent tally by the tribe's language program indicated there are more than 300 basic Yurok speakers, 60 with intermediate skills, 37 who are advanced and 17 who are considered conversationally fluent.
Yurok is now taught in public schools across Humboldt and Del Norte counties, including in five high schools, and the revitalization effort is widely considered the most successful in the state. Linguists say the Yurok language will be considered fully out of danger, however, only when tribal members begin speaking it to their children in the home.
Thompson "took his time to mentor, he let people come into his home, he traveled on behalf of our language and felt an obligation to revive" it, the tribal chairman said.
"I don't think there was a better example of what an elder should be," he said. "I never once heard him raise his voice in anger. I never heard him speak negative words. Even when people probably deserved them, he found positive words to try to pick them up."
Linguist Andrew Garrett, who directs UC Berkeley's Yurok Language Project, said Thompson was a go-to resource for those reclaiming the tribe's tongue.
"Any gaps in their knowledge will now be much harder to fill in," he said. "It has to be done through recordings."
Thompson was born May 26, 1919, in a smokehouse in Wa'tek Village, now known as Johnsons, on the Klamath River. At age 5, he was sent to a government-run boarding school in Hoopa, about 30 miles to the southeast, where he was discouraged from speaking Yurok or engaging in cultural practices.
He would open and close the school gates for visitors, often receiving a penny or a nickel in return, he recalled in a January interview with The Times. He returned home at age 8, and after his mother attempted to put him up for adoption, his grandmother, Rosie Jack Hoppell, took him in, according to his daughter.
Hoppell spoke only Yurok and Thompson lived a traditional life with her and an uncle, hooking eels, harvesting seaweed and clams, catching candlefish and salmon, and hunting elk.
Before school, he would rise early to trap ducks, catching enough for his grandmother to fill 10 feather mattresses, his daughter said. In 1939 he graduated from Del Norte High School, where he earned varsity letters in football, basketball, baseball and track. He was the first Native American to have his name on the high school's Coach's Cup, an annual award for excellence in multiple sports, and was recently inducted into the school's athletic hall of fame. He learned welding at another Indian boarding school, Riverside's Sherman Institute, and served in the Navy in the South Pacific during World War II. In 1959, he moved to Crescent City with his wife, Alta McCash, a member of the neighboring Karuk tribe. The couple had eight children before she died in 1968 after a fall.
After he was pinned between two redwood trees while logging in 1966, Thompson was told he would never walk again. He recovered not only to walk, but to play until he was well into his 70s in a baseball game on his birthday each year against a family from the town of Klamath, his daughter said.
He raised his children alone.
A devout Christian, he took his kids to church every Sunday. If they also went on Wednesday evenings, his daughter recalled, he'd buy them each a root beer float. Known for his beaming smile, he said farewell to most visitors with a "You be good now."
He is survived by seven of his eight children, 29 grandchildren, 72 great-grandchildren and four great-great-grandchildren.
At his memorial at the Del Norte County Fairgrounds, a traditional Yurok feast of eel and salmon cooked on outdoor grills was served to a crowd of more than 400.
New Te Reo Maori Website for Children Launched
Wednesday, 5 December 2012, 1:18 pm
Press Release: Maori Television Service
Kua tae mai te paetukutuku o Mīharo!
E kī ana te paetukutuku i ngā korero me ngā tākaro i te hōtaka a Mīharo.
Nā reira, haere ki www.miharo.co.nz mo ngā mahi pārekareka…
Maori Television's popular children's show MIHARO has been boosted with the introduction of a new full immersion te reo Maori website, www.miharo.co.nz.
Launched by Auckland-based Tumanako Productions, the website provides an environment where tamariki can view stories from the television series and play games with a focus on Maori language revitalisation.
Designed with five to 10-year-olds in mind, audio prompts help younger emerging readers to navigate the site, while more advanced games encourage older tamariki to use their reading skills to complete activities.
The Miharo website can provide hours of fun and learning at home, and because it maintains a total immersion te reo Maori environment, it will also be a welcome online activity for Kohanga Reo, Kura Kaupapa and Rumaki Reo.
Those who choose to register on the site can track their progress, collecting stars as they complete each of the activities, and can earn special Miharo rewards by completing all sections of the site.
MIHARO currently screens weekdays at 5.00pm on the Te Reo Channel and a new series will start on Maori Television in 2013.
Visit the webisite at www.miharo.co.nz.
AOTAHI: School Of Māori And Indigenous Studies
University Of Canterbury
Kete Heru and Heru: The kete heru is woven from unprocessed harakeke. The heru (hair comb) has been hand-carved from bone incorporating a koru design and with paua shell inserts. Kete Heru woven by Ranui Ngarimu. Heru carved by Hemi te Hemi.
Summer School Courses
Ekea te Waka Reo
Let the Journey Begin
TREO110 Conversational Māori for Absolute Beginners
For complete beginners. Conversational language for those who may work with Māori communities/organisations or who are learning the language for the first time.21 Jan – 8 Feb 2013
Lectures: Mon, Tuesday, Thursday 9-12pm
Tutorials: Mon, Tuesday, Thursday 12-1pm
TREO180 Reo Rumaki – Immersion 1
Suited to students who have previous knowledge of te reo Māori and set in a total immersion environment.
Includes Wānanga Reo.
21 Jan – 2 Feb 2013 Lectures: Mon-Fri 9am - 3pm
TREO280 Reo Rumaki – Immersion 2
Suited to students who have previous competency in speaking te reo Māori and set in a total immersion environment.
Includes Wānanga Reo
21 Jan – 2 Feb 2013 Lectures: Mon-Fri 9am - 3pm
TREO380 Reo Rumaki – Immersion 3
Suited to students with an advanced understanding in speaking te reo Māori and set in a total immersion environment.
Includes Wānanga Reo
21 Jan – 8 Feb 2013 Lectures: Mon-Fri 9am - 3pm
MAOR390 Independent Course of Study
For students with a demonstrated ability to complete independent study. Topics vary from Te Reo Māori to Māori and indigenous society, culture, history and politics.
For more information: Ph: 364 2597
Māori Language and Technology Woven Together
Te Reo in Windows and Office recognised at the Māori Language Awards 2012
Nearly a decade of collaboration between language experts to weave te reo into Microsoft products was recognised with an award at the Māori Language Awards 2012 last week in Tauranga. The moving celebration brought together supporters of the language from around the country to celebrate the contributions of 30 finalists.
Anne Taylor who has been a champion of the project within Microsoft said, "We are truly honoured to win an award in the IT and Telecommunications category. It is a privilege to be able to collaborate on this work with so many advocates of Māori culture and language."
The free downloads for Windows, Office and Internet Explorer let people use those products in te Reo Māori. Two thousand technology-related terms were expressed in te reo for the first time, and 100,000 phrases were translated. People who install the free downloads will see that Windows, Office and Internet Explorer feature te reo Māori pervasively. The words on the menus, the help that appears when they pause their mouse pointers over buttons and their computer settings will be infused with the language.
Waikato University senior lecturer in Information Technology and Services, Dr Te Taka Keegan, has worked closely with Microsoft in the development of the free downloads and says the award recognises the need for greater access to technology to facilitate the use of the language on an everyday basis.
"It is totally appropriate that Microsoft's insight, belief and philanthropic support of te reo Māori was recognised with this prestigious award. This is recognition of nearly 10 years of work that has laid a foundation for te reo Māori in the technology environment and highlighted how te reo Māori can be used in modern contexts," says Dr Keegan.
"The impact of Microsoft's work is far reaching, giving future generations of Māori language speakers the expectation that their computing and technology can, and more importantly should, be available in te reo Māori."
The judges who made the award, noted the importance of working collaboratively to ensure the quality of the work, and investing in tamariki by offering an interface from primary school age. This allows youth to be immersed in te reo for life.
Anne Taylor says the work involved in the development of the Māori language pack would not have been possible without the many people working towards a common goal. Individual contributors include Haami Piripi, Huhana Rokx, Sharon Armstrong, Lee Smith, Te Haumihiata Mason, Te Taka Keegan, Tom Roa, Roger Lewis, Wareko Te Āngina, Eva Mahara, Hohepa MacDougall, John Moorfield and Dave Moskovitz.
"On behalf of Microsoft, I would like to thank everyone who has helped to make te reo come to life in a technological context, and Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori for their encouragement and recognition of the work that has been done," says Anne.
"We are humbled to receive this award, but the biggest reward for everyone who has worked on this is to see the uptake of the te reo language packs in homes, schools and organisations. For the future vibrancy of any language, it is important that people – especially young people – can use it like this in their everyday lives. So please, try it out."
The free downloads are already available across three generations of Microsoft products, from Windows XP and Office 2003 onwards. They can be found with a web search for "Windows language pack microsoft.com", "Office language pack microsoft.com", or at: http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/search.aspx?displaylang=mi.
"We're not stopping here. I look forward to embarking on our next voyage together," adds Anne.
Te reo on rise across Tasman
Thursday Nov 8, 2012.
By Yvonne Tahana
More te reo is being spoken in Australia as growing numbers of Maori use their native language, but the shift comes with warnings about sustainability.
Just over 128,000 Maori live in Australia and only a small fraction speak te reo.
However, in a report studying population, migration, citizenship and rights as well as language use, Victoria University's Paul Hamer found the number of Maori speakers of te reo grew from 5213 in 2006 to 8001 in 2011 as measured by the census.
Mr Hamer said the 53.5 per cent spike was remarkable, not the least because the increase was higher than the 38.2 per cent increase in the Maori population in Australia between 2006 and last year.
Australian-born Maori using the language increased from 620 of 31,000 people in 2006 to 1018 of 43,000 people last year - from 2 per cent of that population to 2.4 per cent.
Mr Hamer said 649 of the 1018 were aged between 0-9, suggesting parents were speaking te reo to their children. However, he warned gains would be affected by intermarriage, residential and occupational dispersal and a lack of official support.
"Given the influence of the many factors that promote language shift away from te reo Maori, this increase is unfortunately unlikely to be sustainable," Mr Hamer said.
Glenis Philip-Barbara, chief executive of Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Maori, the Maori Language Commission, said she took a more optimistic view.
"I think it's a good thing when more Maori speak Maori. I think that that's positive. When you're living in a community that's not your own of course you're going to want to strengthen that connect to home."
Asked if she was concerned about the impact of Maori migration on the language domestically, she said while it could depopulate language communities, one of the "silver linings" might be that people who become passionate about the language overseas might return "with an increased desire to roll their sleeves up and participate in this collective project of ours to regenerate the language - hei reo korero [to speak Maori]."
Lessons a long way from Otara
Sheryl Wiki says complacency stopped her from learning Maori when she lived in New Zealand.
Ten years ago the former Work and Income New Zealand worker, now 40, moved to Sydney from Otara. Soon after she discovered that a school - Te Reo Maioha - was offering Te Ataarangi courses for beginners.
While she'd taken classes 18 years ago, she hadn't kept them up. Ms Wiki said she was happily surprised to find an offering in Australia.
"It boosted my urge to do it. How often were you going to go overseas and find anything Maori?"
She is still involved at the school, supporting teachers and has a fluent father who also lives in Australia.
"It's about holding on to our identity, holding on to who we are. We were created as a unique people in the world and our reo is part of that. We [Australian Maori) probably put more effort into it because it's harder for us to get it."
Two Languages Better Than One for Kids' Brains: Study
Bilingual children excel at problem-solving, creative thinking, research suggests
Thursday, Aug. 9 (HealthDay News)
Thu, Aug 9, 2012 (Health Day News) — Children who speak more than one language seem to have a learning advantage: Being bilingual can improve children's problem-solving skills and creative thinking, a new study suggests.
The mental sharpness needed to switch between two languages may develop skills that boost other types of thinking, explained researchers from the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland.
"Bilingualism is now largely seen as being beneficial to children but there remains a view that it can be confusing, and so potentially detrimental to them," study leader Fraser Lauchlan, a lecturer at the University of Strathclyde's School of Psychological Sciences & Health, said in a university news release. "Our study has found that it can have demonstrable benefits, not only in language but in arithmetic, problem-solving and enabling children to think creatively."
The study involved 121 children roughly 9 years old in Scotland and Sardinia who spoke English or Italian. Of these children, 62 were bilingual and also spoke Gaelic or Sardinian. The children were given set tasks in English or Italian. Specifically, they were asked to reproduce patterns of colored blocks, orally repeat a series of numbers, define words and solve mental math problems.
The bilingual children performed much better on the tasks than those who spoke only one language, the investigators found.
"We also assessed the children's vocabulary, not so much for their knowledge of words as their understanding of them. Again, there was a marked difference in the level of detail and richness in description from the bilingual pupils," said Lauchlan, who is also a visiting professor at the University of Cagliari in Sardinia.
"We also found they had an aptitude for selective attention -- the ability to identify and focus on information which is important, while filtering out what is not -- which could come from the 'code-switching' of thinking in two different languages," Lauchlan added.
The study authors pointed out that the bilingual children who spoke Gaelic performed better than those who spoke Sardinian. They suggested the Gaelic-speaking children may have benefitted from the formal teaching of the language and its extensive literature. In contrast, Sardinian has a largely oral tradition with no standardized form of the language.
The study was released online in advance of print publication in the International Journal of Bilingualism.
-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
Copyright © 2012 HealthDay. All rights reserved.
Reversing the decline in speakers of te reo Māori
Thursday, 26 July 2012, 1:31 pm
Press Release: Victoria University of Wellington
26 July 2012
Reversing the decline in speakers of te reo Māori
Understanding what helps people become active users of the Māori language could hold the key to reversing the decline in speaker numbers, says a Victoria University researcher.
Associate Professor Rāwinia Higgins from Victoria’s Te Kawa a Māui (School of Māori Studies) is co-leading a three-year research project to investigate how Māori language contributes to economic development, cultural identity and social cohesion.
Her focus is on community responsiveness to Māori language, while co-leader Associate Professor Pōia Rewi from the School of Māori, Pacific and Indigenous Studies at the University of Otago is examining state responsiveness.
Dr Higgins and her team are concentrating on people who have taken steps to include Māori language in their everyday life—those who are not necessarily proficient, but motivated.
“We want to know what motivates them, where they find support and if they use the resources that are available—such as Māori radio and television, Māori language interfaces on websites, and Māori materials provided in areas like doctors’ waiting rooms.
“As a speaker of te reo Māori, I generally don’t read Māori language versions of material. It’s frustrating, because they’re often quite dense, and to work them out you need a rich vocabulary or plenty of time,” says Dr Higgins.
The researchers also want to know where people are most likely to use Māori language. “Marae, for example, have been seen as a priority area but our preliminary findings show Māori is not an active form of communication on the marae. A lot of people attend functions and ceremonies there but it’s not a place where they go regularly to talk the language.”
Dr Higgins is working closely with the Te Kohanga Reo National Trust and Te Ataarangi, an initiative to encourage people to speak Māori in homes and communities, to carry out her research. Information is being gathered through questionnaires in both Māori and English, face-to-face interviews and online surveys.
What’s clear, says Dr Higgins, is that most of the initiatives underway to encourage uptake of Māori language are operating in silos.
“There are points of crossover but they tend to be informal—there is no single, coordinated strategy to move forward. For example, although immersion schools were established to provide schooling for those who had started in a kohanga reo, there doesn’t seem to be an overall strategy to support students to move from one to the other.”
A government review of the Māori language sector carried out last year found that more than $500 million is being spent on the language, but Dr Higgins says it is still struggling.
“What our research will be able to do is guide how we invest the money being spent. It makes sense for the dollars to be going into providing things people who are driven to learn the language are actually using.”
A further strand of the project involves Dr Higgins gathering contributions from experts in a number of fields for a new book on what has happened to the Māori language over the last 25 years.
“A literature review at the start of our research showed there is a huge amount of information up until 1987 when Māori became an official language, but very little, if any, qualitative analysis of where things are at since then.
“We want to excite the language sector by getting highly respected people who have been part of the struggle to put a fresh perspective on where we are headed.”
Called Te Kura Roa, the Pae Tawhiti (The Distant Horizon) research initiative has $1.5 million of funding from Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga, New Zealand’s Indigenous Centre of Research Excellence hosted at The University of Auckland.
Overall, says Dr Higgins, the research project, now in its second year, aims to demonstrate the value of the Māori language to New Zealand.
“The language is an identity marker for New Zealand as a whole, not just Māori. Raising awareness of and interest in the language helps build a strong national identity, because it is part of what makes us distinctive.”
Paul Moon: Te reo becoming lost in translation
By Paul Moon
9:30 AM Tuesday Jul 24, 2012
Young speakers, not a state agency will save Maori language, says Paul Moon
Conversing in Maori offers a glimmer of hope for the survival of the language. Photo / Steven McNicholl
Is the Maori language destined for extinction? Quite possibly. There is little doubt that English is advancing rapidly to become the language of our species. Stubborn strongholds of linguistic variety persist in certain corners the world but anyone looking at trends rather than snapshots can see that the writing is on the wall for these other languages, and needless to say, that writing is in English.
While the impending end to the problems of Babel will bring many advantages, the fate of minority languages is becoming a matter of some concern, particularly in New Zealand, where te reo Maori increasingly looks like it is being squeezed into oblivion.
For most of the past one and a half centuries, the state has been less than sympathetic in New Zealand towards te reo, with official treatment of the language worse in some eras than others. But to be fair, the odds have been stacked against te reo, as they have against almost every other indigenous language in English colonies, regardless of official hostility or indifference.
Until recently, the demise of te reo was a private fear rather than a public concession, but a few brave academics over the past few years have dared to voice their concerns, and have called for action to protect the language.
Their motives are sound, but the remedy still seems elusive. Indeed, as soon as people urge the "protection" of a language, there is an implicit admission that the normal devices which prop up any language and allow its transmission from one generation to the next no longer function as they ought to.
If this issue is not understood and addressed, no amount of shouting from the sidelines, no amount of painstaking analysis, no amount of slick rhetoric, and no amount of compulsion will have much effect on the fate of the language.
Also troubling was a recent proposal for the establishment of a government department responsible for ensuring the survival of te reo. Nowhere in the world has such an approach worked, and the very suggestion that a government department could somehow revive a language in almost irreversible decline shows a spectacular failure to appreciate how languages survive and flourish, and how, for that matter, they also die.
Yet, if some dramatic change is not brought about, te reo may well persist, but only as a ceremonial language used in formal occasions, in the way the Latin in the traditional Catholic Mass once was.
Existence as a cultural curio or academic exercise is not the same thing as a language surviving.
For years, the Maori Language Commission has been charged to act as the state's custodian of this taonga, but increasingly, it has been playing the role of a linguistic life support system, keeping the faint pulse of te reo beating even though all the signs are that its condition might otherwise be terminal.
Perhaps part of the problem is that te reo is still identified primarily as the language of Maori. Its circumference has yet to spread to incorporate the rest of the New Zealand population.
Certainly, very few Europeans regard te reo as "their" language, and fewer still feel compelled to acquire it.
However, we are not quite at the point where the last rites can be pronounced. Amid all the gloomy prognoses about the prospects for the language, there are some shafts of optimism beginning to shine through.
One of these is the number of young people using te reo conversationally.
Nowhere is this more evident than at the Nga Manu Korero national secondary school speech contests, which serve as an invigorating case study in all that is effective in the promotion of te reo.
Students strive for excellence in the friendly yet competitive environment, and the quality of judging is high, as are the standards that the participants are required to meet.
And yet, it is when the students are not on stage competing that the most encouraging signs of a revival are evident. Many of these teenagers speak to each other with reasonable fluency in te reo. There is no compulsion to do so, and neither is there anything contrived about it.
Rather, it is a case of young people using the language because they find it as a natural expression of their culture, and because there is an environment where speaking te reo Maori feels just as normal as speaking English.
Perhaps there is the kernel of something in these contests that the various state agencies involved in promoting te reo could consider. The cost of not doing so could be considerable.
Dr Paul Moon is Professor of History at Te Ara Poutama, the Faculty of Maori Development, AUT University firstname.lastname@example.org
Mobile phone add-on opens door to te reo for everyone
By Yvonne Tahana
5:30 AM Friday Jul 27, 2012
The new app will enable users to learn Maori by translating words and constructing sentences. Photo / Thinkstock
Technology is making it easier for all New Zealanders to feel they have a stake in te reo Maori, a leading language advocate believes.
This week, Vodafone and Auckland University senior lecturer Sophie Tauwehe Tamati released the Hika Lite smartphone application, which can translate 600 words and thousands of phrases.
Maori Language Commission chief executive Glenis Philip-Barbara said she had tried the app and loved how non-Maori speakers were using it. "I heard a few radio guys while I was driving the other night who were having a tutu [play around] making up their own sentences.
"The biggest enemy of language revitalisation is whakama [shame, shyness], a terrible sense of 'I'm not doing this right, I'm too nervous to say anything in front of anyone'," Ms Philip-Barbara said.
"The thing with these applications is they give people a bit of a hand.
"That's the really cool thing. When people believe it's our language - the collective 'our' rather than the exclusive 'our' - [anyone, not just] those with tuturu whakapapa ki tena iwi ki tena iwi [Maori], can use this language.
For those of us who call Aotearoa home, this is our language."
Ms Philip-Barbara also praised the production of the app, which runs sentences together that are "pleasing to the ear" from a rhythmic Maori point of view.
The Hika Lite app contains English words that have been translated into Maori and saved as coloured tiles.
The user enters the English phrase to be translated, and the app links the tiles together to create sentences and paragraphs.
The translation can be read or listened to - in a male or female voice.
Te reo speakers have had a bit of fun with it this week, discovering it can be made to say things such as, "He tino reka ... te ngeru - hmmmm, the cat is tasty."
Learn some te reo
New Zealanders wanting to buff up their te reo vocab should check out nzhistory.net.nz. The website has a Maori word for every day of the year and a 100 must know te reo terms. Here's a pick of both lists.
Holidays and anniversaries
1. Tau-hou - New Year
2. Parairei Pai - Good Friday (also, Paraire)
3. Aranga - Easter Sunday
4. Ra Maumahara ki nga hoia o Aotearoa me Ahitereiria - Anzac Day
5. Ra whanau o te Kuini o Ingarangi - Queen's Birthday
6. Matariki - beginning of Maori New Year, Pleiades
7. Kirihimete - Christmas
8. A-tau - annual
9. Hararei - holiday
10. Whakata - rest
11. Whakanui - celebrate
12. Koha - present
13. Hana koko - Father Christmas
14. Hakari - feast
Days, months and seasons
15. Rahina; Mane - Monday
16. Ratu; Turei - Tuesday
17. Raapa; Wenerei - Wednesday
18. Rapare; Taite - Thursday
19. Ramere; Paraire - Friday
20. Rahoroi - Saturday
21. Ratapu - Sunday
22. Kohitatea - January
23. Hui-tanguru - February; also Pepuere
24. Poutu-te-rangi - March
25. Paenga-Whawha - April
26. Haratua - May
27. Pipiri - June
28. Hongongoi - July
29. Hereturi-koka - August
30. Mahuru - September
31. Whiringa-a-nuku - October
32. Whiringa-a-rangi - November
33. Hakihea - December
34. Ngahuru - autumn
35. Raumati - summer
36. Takurua - winter
37. Koanga - spring
38. Nau mai - welcome
39. E noho ra - farewell (from a person leaving)
40. Haere mai - Welcome! Enter!
41. Haere ra - farewell, goodbye (from someone staying)
42. Hei kona ra - farewell, goodbye (less formal)
43. Ka kite - see you again, see you soon (informal)
44. Kia ora - can mean hello, hi, greetings, or to acknowledge or thank someone
45. Tena koe - formal greeting to one person
46. Tena korua - formal greeting to two people
47. Tena koutou - formal greeting to more than two people
48. Morena - good morning; also atamarie
49. Pomarie - goodnight or good evening
50. Tena tatou katoa - formal inclusive greeting, including oneself
Families and people
51. Whanau - family
52. Matamua - first-born
53. Potiki - youngest
54. Papa - father
55. Whaea - mother
56. Tamaiti - child
57. Tamahine - daughter
58. Tipuna or tupuna - ancestor
59. Wahine - woman, wife
60. Tamaiti whangai - adopted child
61. Tuakana - older brother of a male
Tuakana - older sister of a female
62. Teina - younger brother of a male
Teina - younger sister of a female
63. Tungane - brother of a female
64. Tuahine - sister of a male
65. Kuia - old lady
66. Koroua, koro - old man
67. Kaumatua - elder of group
68. Tane - man, husband
69. Tamariki - children
70. Tama - son, young man, youth Places
71. Taone-nui - city
72. Huarahi - roadway, highway
73. Rohe - boundary, a territory (either geographical or spiritual) of an iwi or hapu
74. Turangawaewae - a place to stand, a place to belong to, a seat or location of identity
75. Whenua - land, homeland, country; also afterbirth, placenta
76. Tahi - one
77. Rua - two
78. Toru - three
79. Wha - four
80. Rima - five
81. Ono - six
82. Whitu - seven
83. Waru - eight
84. Iwa - nine
85. Tekau - 10
86. Tekau ma tahi - 11
87. Rua tekau - 20
88. Iwa tekau - 90
89. Iwa tekau ma iwa - 99
90. Kotahi rau - 100
91. Iwa rau - 900
92. Kotahi mano - 1000
Food and drink
93. Kai - food. E kai - command to eat
94. Inu - drink. E inu - command to drink
95. Hoko - buy (as in ice cream)
96. Miti - meat
97. Hua whenua - vegetables
98. Hua rakau - fruit
99. Hiakai - hungry. Kei te hiakai au. I am hungry.
100. Hiainu - thirsty. Kei te hiainu au. I am thirsty.
Kā Marama o te tau – Months of the year
Kāi Tahu months of the year
Kahuru kai paeka
Kai te haere
Mātahi ā te tau
This week marks the annual focus on te reo, the Maori Language
By Coen Lammers
Most people in the Ashburton District may shrug their shoulders and wonder what that means to them.
Indeed, the Maori language and culture is virtually invisible in large parts of the South Island that are dominated by a Pakeha population and an Anglo-Saxon culture. Like other parts of New Zealand, Ashburton's ethnic mix is changing rapidly due to the economic pulling power of the district which has attracted hundreds of families from the North Island and abroad.
Primary school photos no longer feature long rows of little blonde faces, but these days represent a true mixture of the cultures that make up this wonderful country. Despite an increasing Maori and Pacific Island population, most Ashburtonians have little knowledge of or exposure to their language or customs. For many, a visit to the central North Island or the East Coast feels more like a foreign experience than a domestic trip.
This great cultural divide was highlighted last year when my family was lucky to be invited to a wedding in Hastings between a friend from Timaru and her fiancé from Flaxmere.
The interaction at times was awkward, to say the least, especially during the lavish after-wedding hangi in a Flaxmere backyard. The neat, middle-class Pakeha Mainlanders were not sure what to make of the new extended family with their impressive mokos. With the help of a few beers, good food and a few social butterflies among both families, the ice was soon broken, but it was impossible to ignore that our country is home to two distinctly different cultures.
Maori Language Week may seem a lame duck to many, but it is a terrific tool to put the focus on the language and culture that makes us stand out on the world stage. Critics wonder why our Government spends so much to revive te reo as it has not use overseas, but they seem to be missing the point. The survival of the language and everything associated with it, is crucial for the survival of our national identity.
The Maori culture, including the haka, is not only a great tool to attract foreign visitors but also makes us unique among other nations with an Anglo-Saxon heritage, like Australia, Canada or the United States.
The number of te reo speakers is increasing, due to a greater government focus in education and the Maori media, but unfortunately the number of fluent speakers is literally dying.
Of a population of 565,000 Maori people, there are only 18,000 fluent speakers, so there is no reason to get complacent. Intriguingly, the interest to learn te reo among non-Maori is growing and the language is changing among its younger speakers. Te reo traditionalists lament that the vowels in many words are shortening among the younger generation compared to those who learned Maori as their first language. Instead of seeing this as a negative, te reo academics could embrace these changes as proof that it is truly a living language.
Bi-lingual District Courts is a good ruling for te reo
Thursday, 19 July 2012, 5:37 pm
Press Release: Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Maori
Bi-lingual District Courts is a good ruling for te reo
Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori (The Māori Language Commission) were thrilled to hear the announcement made by Chief District Court Judge Jan-Marie Doogue regarding bi-lingual greetings in District Courts this week.
“This is a positive move and a useful means by which we can continue to work toward realising the aspirational focus of the Māori Language Act 1987 which speaks of enabling te reo Māori as an ordinary means of communication,” says Chief Executive Glenis Philip-Barbara.
“We should not forget that section 4 of the Māori Language Act 1987 established the right to speak Māori in legal proceedings, twenty five years on we are pleased to see this further development”, says Philip-Barbara.
“Our colleagues at the Ministry of Justice who are providing court staff with training and support in the appropriate use of te reo phrases are also due congratulations and thanks. This is a significant system change that takes a huge amount of good will and collaboration”, says Philip-Barbara.
“Arohatia te Reo, the theme for Māori Language Week 2012 encourages people to show their regard for the language. District Courts and the Ministry of Justice are demonstrating their ongoing support for Te Reo Māori. There is already a significant amount of te reo Māori spoken on a daily basis in other courts including the Māori Land Court, Waitangi Tribunal and Rangatahi Youth Court. So this progression further realises New Zealand’s indigenous language as an ordinary means of communication. This exciting progression is a trend that we hope others will aspire to.”
The death of language?
An estimated 7,000 languages are being spoken around the world. But that number is expected to shrink rapidly in the coming decades. What is lost when a language dies?
In 1992 a prominent US linguist stunned the academic world by predicting that by the year 2100, 90% of the world's languages would have ceased to exist.
Far from inspiring the world to act, the issue is still on the margins, according to prominent French linguist Claude Hagege. "Most people are not at all interested in the death of languages," he says. "If we are not cautious about the way English is progressing it may eventually kill most other languages."
Bilingual and reo Māori booklets available at Countdown
Wednesday, 6 June 2012
Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Maori
6 June 2012
Bilingual and reo Māori booklets produced for Māori Language Week and available at Countdown supermarkets.
Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori has released two new phrase booklets to help promote the theme of Arohatia te Reo for this year's Māori Language Week taking place from 23-29 July.
"Typically we produce just the one bilingual booklet for Māori Language Week, but given a key message for language revitalisation is language use, we would be remiss in not providing something aimed at intermediate level speakers and above, hence the two booklets", says Chief Executive, Glenis Philip-Barbara.
"The bilingual booklet has three main themes aimed at helping people to support the Arohatia te Reo theme – Learn it, live it, love it. The Learn it section covers pronunciation and other basics of the language; phrases for around the home, coupled with photographic lay outs of various home settings with Māori language labels form the main content in the Live it section; while the Love it section contains an A-Z of fun Māori language activities" says Glenis Philip-Barbara.
"The reo Māori booklet, is for intermediate speakers, and provides tips and hints about how speakers can improve their language skills through correct and informed use of whakataukī; kīwaha and kupu whakarite, but also has a key message of keeping the language simple, and aligned with Māori thought. The booklet also contains dialogue scenarios based on travelling in the car to illustrate how this can be achieved in everyday communications" says Glenis Philip-Barbara.
"Our partners - Te Puni Kōkiri and the Human Rights Commission, have been working with us to promote and celebrate the week throughout the country. We have produced additional resources also that support whānau and organisations using Māori language in their everyday activities," says Glenis Philip-Barbara.
Resources for Māori Language Week 2012 include bilingual and reo Māori full colour booklets Arohatia te Reo, with helpful phrases, words and activities for a range of settings in the community; posters; stickers; wristbands; balloons; iron-on tee shirt transfers and more.
"We also have a range of resources that can be downloaded from the website. These include the photographic lay-outs of the home settings with labels from the bilingual booklet; a word-find; and a template for listing your tribal connections in both English and Māori" says Glenis Philip-Barbara.
For any organisations wanting bulk orders, a high resolution print file can be provided upon request for you to print your own quantities. You can also have your own logo on the outside back cover.
An order form can be downloaded from the Kōrero Māori website.
Please note that resources are being provided for free again this year but at limited quantities. Those quantities are indicated on the order form. Orders will be processed on a first in, first served basis.
However if you're only after a singular bilingual booklet for yourself, you can pick up a free copy from your local Countdown supermarket. These will be available at Countdown throughout Māori Language Week.
"It's great to have Countdown supermarkets on board again this year helping to support Māori Language Week. Accessibility to the phrase booklet, a core item for Māori Language Week promotions, has now greatly improved thanks to their participation and we hope this will also lead to increased language use in our communities" says Glenis Philip-Barbara.
For more information visit: www.korero.maori.nz
Battle to preserve te reo far from won
Even after decades of effort, supporters of the Maori language remain locked in a battle against te reo’s extinction.
PHILIP MATTHEWS REPORTS.
Between now and Christmas, nearly 20 languages will disappear from the face of the earth. Words may remain, and traces of writing, but there will be no more speakers. You can arrive at that figure from Canadian linguist K David Harrison’s grim prediction that half of the 6912 distinct human languages spoken in the year 2001 will not be heard at the end of this century. That averages as a language disappearing every 10 days.
Photo: Peter Meecham/Fairfax Media
Maori Television has had the biggest impact on validating and normalising the Maori language. Te reo tunes, right: Maori songs on a wall at Ngai Tawake Marae in Northland. The further south you travel in New Zealand, the weaker the commitment to te reo.
At this rate, Harrison calculated, languages are more threatened with extinction than species of birds, mammals, fish or plants.
The natural question is whether it matters as much. What is lost if fewer people speak distinct languages and more people simply speak English, Spanish and other dominant languages?
In the case of the Maori language, the argument is that te reo Maori is the essence of Maori identity. This assertion appeared in the Te Reo Mauriora report, released last year. According to Unesco guidelines quoted in the report, Maori sits between “definitely endangered” and “severely endangered” on a spectrum that runs from “safe” to “extinct”.
How many speakers would Maori need to be considered safe from extinction? At the national workshops that preceded the writing of Te Reo Mauriora, a figure of 50 per cent came up – the language would be off the endangered species list if 50 per cent of Maori spoke Maori. But that figure is a long way off. According to the 2006 census, just 23.7 per cent of Maori are able to hold a conversation about everyday things in te reo.
Younger Maori are the least likely to be fluent, with about one in six Maori under 15 able to hold a conversation in te reo. For the over-65s, the rate was higher at slightly less than half.
The further south you go, the worse things get. In the 2006 census, only 18 per cent of those who belonged to the Maori ethnic group in Christchurch could speak Maori. Within Christchurch, areas with the highest proportion of Maori speakers were central Christchurch, Aidanfield, Governors Bay and the eastern bays of Banks Peninsula.
Those figures agree with the general impression formed by South Island iwi Ngai Tahu. “There was a greater loss of language or a bigger decline, and a lot earlier, than any other iwi here in the south,” says Paulette Tamati-Elliffe, project manager of Ngai Tahu’s language-recovering Kotahi Mano Kaika, Kotahi Mano Wawata strategy.
“Within Ngai Tahu living in the South Island, we have no native speakers left. You might have native speakers from other iwi living here but we lost our last native speaker last year.”
That was John Tupae Reihana, also known as Uncle Jacko Reihana. He died on December 4, aged in his late 80s.
Tamati-Elliffe explains that a native speaker is someone who grew up in a Maori-speaking community and was exposed to te reo at home from birth – someone for whom te reo was their first language.
Throughout New Zealand, the eradication of te reo was central to 19th century colonisation. The Te Reo Mauriora report lays out the history. Non-Maori proficiency in te reo was only considered useful if it could advance Government policy or religious conversion.
There were laws. In 1847, the Colonial Government ruled that financial assistance for education would only be available if English was the language of instruction. In 1867 the Native Schools Act enforced English as the language of instruction for Maori children. Te reo speakers were punished.
Consequently, te reo use fell dramatically. In her research, Tamati-Elliffe has come across a letter published in Te Pipiwharauroa, a Maori newspaper, at the close of the 19th century. Tutere Wi Repa, a doctor who had come south from Te Kaha in the Bay of Plenty, saw that not a single child under 16 was using te reo as a language among their peers in a Maori community at Puketeraki, north of Dunedin.
“My thoughts are that they were most likely raised in te reo in the home and would have had comprehension of te reo and ability to speak it, but were now choosing not to use te reo,” Tamati-Elliffe says. “You saw the turn of the tide in that generation. We had some native speakers in the early 1900s. But to my knowledge very few families maintained it in the home.”
The Te Reo Mauriora report was commissioned by Maori Party co-leader and Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples. The findings of its independent review panel, Te Paepae Motuhake, came only six months after aWaitangi Tribunal report on fauna, flora and Maori cultural intellectual property that also painted a grave picture of the state of te reo.
The Waitangi Tribunal report registered a nationwide decline in native speakers and falling numbers using Kohanga Reo, Kura Kaupapa and Wharekura (Maori language preschools and immersion schools). After the report’s release, Maori Language Commission chairman Erima Henare asked, “Why are our people not accessing what in essence are good models of teaching te reo Maori?”
Henare went on to say, during a debate on TV1’s Marae in late 2010, that “Maori language communities need to become more active than they already are”. It was not an issue of money but a matter of “marshalling our resources and waking our people up”.
When the Maori Language Commission was formed in 1987, there was a warning that te reo could go the way of the moa if serious action was not taken. The paradox since is that a decline in Maori speakers has run parallel with growing acceptance outside Maoridom of the value of preserving and teaching the language, and growing media visibility.
In the Marae debate, Henare cited a survey that found 39 per cent of New Zealanders wanted compulsory Maori language in schools. He quoted a Dominion Post voxpop that found eight out of 10 people wanted Maori language to be compulsory.
More recently, Trade Minister Tim Groser has floated a “personal view” that the Maori language should be taught to every 5-year-old in New Zealand. Speaking to TV3’s The Nation in April, Groser said that, besides introducing
Everyday language: biculturalism to young children, learning more than one language means “they will be able to learn other languages as their personal circumstances fit”.
When Groser’s comments were reported, it was noted that Maori Party policy in the 2011 election campaign was for te reo to be compulsorily available in New Zealand schools by 2015, that Hone Harawira’s Mana Party had gone further and said all New Zealanders should be fluent by 2040, and that ACT’s former leader Don Brash had responded that compulsory te reo was “pointless”. So is teaching te reo Maori to every child the solution? Yes and no. Language experts tend to agree that the best way to ensure the survival and growth of a language is to focus on use in the home.
US linguist Joshua Fishman has said the most commonly used factor in determining the vitality of a language is whether it is being transmitted between generations. Languages become endangered “because of the lack of informal intergenerational transmission and informal daily life support, not because they are not being taught in schools”. Rather than top-down and institutional, efforts should be bottom-up and informal.
“Our focus in the iwi is in the home, recognising that intergenerational transfer of te reo has the greatest outcomes,” Tamati-Elliffe says. Yet the support from schools with bilingual units and immersion is also seen as important, as it gives speakers other opportunities.
Nationally, it seems a strategy change is required. The Te Reo Mauriora report found “the principal foci” of the 2003 Maori Language Strategy were education and broadcasting, which is reflected in the distribution of Government funds: 84 per cent of funds are spent on education programmes, 10 per cent on broadcasting and just 2 per cent in homes and communities.
According to the report, the national spend ranges from $225 million to $600m per year. One recommendation is to link education and broadcasting more closely with Maori language homes. Another is to appoint a government minister responsible for the Maori language.
When the report was released last April, it was said that a new Maori Language Strategy would follow consideration of the report and its recommendations. More than a year later, is there any update? A spokesman for Pita Sharples says “the Maori Language Strategy is being developed through a Cabinet process, and the timeframe is subject to Cabinet decisions which have not yet been made”.
Back at the language coalface, Tamati-Elliffe explains that Ngai Tahu launched its Kotahi Mano Kaika, Kotahi Mano Wawata strategy in 2000. The phrase translates as “one thousand homes, one thousand aspirations”, and the ambition was to have 1000 Ngai Tahu homes speaking te reo by 2025.
At the time, “we would have been looking at less than five Ngai Tahu families speaking te reo in the South Island”. Twelve years on, they have “well over 25 whanau who actively participate in Ngai Tahu te reo events who are actively raising their children with te reo Maori in the home”.
The greater ambition of 1000 homes may not be realistic, but Tamati-Elliffe is confident that “our focus on intergenerational transfer of te reo within the home domain as a living language is consistent with what international language revitalisation experts such as Joshua Fishman espouse as being a critical factor in language revitalisation, also acknowledging that while it takes only one generation to lose a language, it takes at least three generations to restore that language”.
Tamati-Elliffe’s home is one of those te reo homes. Ten years ago, at the birth of her second child, she and her partner “made a proactive decision to only use te reo Maori with our children”. While Tamati-Elliffe is a second language speaker, the children are being raised with te reo as their first language.
In Dunedin, where Tamati-Elliffe lives, and elsewhere in the South Island, such opportunities have to be created.
“A lot of Ngai Tahu te reo speaking families have to create our own domains to use te reo as a language of communication. In Christchurch there are a number of whanau cluster groups who are proactively initiating spaces and places to use te reo. Over summer we had a softball team that was largely made up of te reo speakers and they made that the focus of their team.
“We have a number of play groups, which are called puna reo. The focus is to socialise with other families, with children under 5, in te reo Maori. To build not only the parent-to-child relationship but so the children can socialise with other children in te reo Maori. We also facilitate a Kura Reo Kai Tahu once a year, in January, which is aimed at families who spend a week together and we provide learning sessions for the adults, and alongside that, a children’s programme. That’s all in te reo.”
Within these strategies, Ngai Tahu is also charged with preserving the particular South Island dialect. The most well-known difference is the “ng” sound is pronounced as “k”, which is why Ngai Tahu is sometimes rendered as “Kai Tahu”. There are also distinctive words, idioms and proverbs (see sidebar). The need to preserve regional dialects was other point made in Te Reo Mauriora.
These strategies are about preserving and growing the language within Maoridom. What about the Pakeha world? Yes, there is value in Pakeha New Zealanders learning te reo: “Without that support and value towards te reo, it makes a lot harder for Maori to use it as a language,” Tamati-Elliffe says.
Equally, iwi members are likely to have Pakeha family members, partners, friends and co-workers.
One Pakeha who benefitted is Christchurch poet Jeffrey Paparoa Holman, who started to learn te reo 15 years ago, at the age of 50. He recently wrote, in The Press, that “when we ignore the Maori language and watch it die, when we openly demean its value and relevance in today’s world, isn’t this all part and parcel of an attitude to Maori themselves? It begins to look like a subtle but nevertheless insidious form of racism: ‘ka whakaiti, ka whakahawea’, meaning to put down, to despise, be contemptuous.”
In the past decade, there has been that growing sense of media visibility. Maori Language Week is recognised. Pakeha newsreaders regularly say “kia ora” and “morena” (morning). An entire te reo channel, Maori Television, has been the greatest development: Tamati-Elliffe sees the channel as validating and normalising a language that was, when she was growing up, negatively stereotyped. Again, what do we lose if a language disappears? The culture, the people do not vanish – or do they?
“As a second language learner, the insight that you can gain through te reo is a different worldview in many cases,” Tamati-Elliffe says. “Could you do the haka in English? It wouldn’t have the same effect. Could we perform our rituals of encounter on the marae without te reo? I don’t think so. The language underpins the culture. We have been able to maintain some cultural practices without it but it’s my view that language is the key to maintaining the culture.”
Strong support for preserving te reo Māori
Waatea Monday, 18th June, 2012
A new poll has found an even split between those who support efforts to promote and maintain Te Reo Maori.
Some 45 percent of respondents said spending on Te Taura Whiri I Te Reo Maori and other initiatives was worthwhile, against 43 percent who said it was a waste of money.
Hawaiian linguistics professor Kenneth Rehg, who was in the country recently to speak about the death of languages, says too many people from dominant cultures around the world think they have nothing to learn from indigenous societies.
But he says 75 per cent of plant-derived pharmaceuticals come from information provided by traditional healers, and languages were repositories of knowledge.
Mandatory teaching of Maori has merit
By Richard Boock www.stuff.co.nz 01/05/2012
Unfamiliarity - the bedfellow of disregard, insensitivity and suspicion. Not to mention outright hostility. That's right, it sleeps around. On the other hand, the more we get to know each other; the more we share our lives, break bread and commune, the less we tend to notice our differences. It's much harder to hate people we've learnt to understand, after all. Which is why Trade Minister Tim Groser's recent suggestion of the mandatory teaching of Maori in schools has so much merit.
It's true Groser (below) wasn't thinking so much of domestic dynamics when he floated the idea late last week. But his justification, that learning another language gave people the ability to look at things from a different cultural perspective, applies just at well at home as it does on foreign shores. Not only might it help foster trade relations abroad, it would also help improve race relations here. In other words, the mandatory teaching of te reo at all Kiwi primary schools would be a win-win.
Why then, has Groser's call been so speedily dismissed? New Zealand First leader Winston Peters, so often the mouthpiece for discredited philosophy, perhaps best summed up the opposition the other day. Parents wouldn't buy into it, he reckoned (without expanding further), and there were more important languages to learn. That is, rather than showing any leadership, he just rolled out the same tired, old clichés and lame excuses.
More important languages? Really? You'd think a nation's indigenous tongue would rank pretty highly. Even if not the principal language it would still seem to have a far greater application than most, especially on the domestic front. Stands to reason that, at a time when New Zealanders face increasingly complex questions about their sense of biculturalism, the more of us who understand the Maori language the better. And it's not as if it prevents anyone learning another.
Peters possibly gets closer to the crux of the issue when he speaks of parents not buying into the concept. This is effectively code for suggesting a majority of voters are against the idea, no matter what the benefits. I'm not sure it's true anymore of today's community but, if he's right, it's even more reason to teach all our kids Te Reo. This generation of adults might still be bubbling with bigotry but it doesn't mean future ones need to be.
Broadly speaking, we can break Te Reo dissenters into two main groups. One, populated by those who refuse to recognise the Maori culture and by definition its language, as anything worthwhile. The other, filled by conspiracy theorists; those convinced the entire proposal is a Maori plot to brainwash our children into sympathising with their particular political bent. It's the whole 'knowledge is evil' argument, wrapped up in brown racist wrapper.
Not convinced? The same sort of fear-mongering has been happening in American education, most recently when Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum accused colleges of being an indoctrination mill for all sorts of dangerous ideas (such as a belief in science). That's right. Over there, it's misguided conservatives accusing schools of churning out liberals; in New Zealand it's silly Kiwis thinking Maori want to programme the young.
As Mana Party MP Hone Harawira said the other day of te reo, if you can't understand the language you can't understand the culture. He's right, of course; the scary thing is that so many New Zealanders would prefer their children to inherit their own blind ignorance. Hopefully, more people like Groser will feel a responsibility to challenge the prejudice so that, soon, all primary schoolers will learn to speak Maori.
Wouldn't New Zealand be a better place for it?
Bilingualism Improves Hearing, Attention
By Helen Albert http://www.medwire-news.md 03/04/2012
PNAS 2012; Advance online publication
MedWire News: Individuals who are bilingual have enhanced sound perception and have improved attention and working memory skills compared with those who are monolingual, suggest study findings.
The researchers explain that the process of becoming bilingual seems to change how people's nervous systems respond to sound.
"People do crossword puzzles and other activities to keep their minds sharp," said study author Viorica Marian (Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, USA) in a press statement.
"But the advantages we've discovered in dual language speakers come automatically simply from knowing and using two languages. It seems that the benefits of bilingualism are particularly powerful and broad, and include attention, inhibition and encoding of sound."
The researchers recorded the auditory brainstem response to a complex sound (cABR) using electrodes placed on the scalp in 23 bilingual (English/Spanish speaking) and 25 monolingual (English-speaking) adolescents.
The team found that both groups responded in a similar way to the complex sound "da" (six-formant, 170-ms sound) when the area surrounding the participant was quiet.
However, when the sound was played at the same time as background noise the bilingual teenagers were better at encoding the fundamental frequency of speech sounds that are known to influence pitch perception and at grouping of specific auditory objects than the monolingual adolescents.
"Bilingualism serves as enrichment for the brain and has real consequences when it comes to executive function, specifically attention and working memory," study co-author Nina Kraus, also a Northwestern University researcher, told the press.
She added: "Through experience-related tuning of attention, the bilingual auditory system becomes highly efficient in automatically processing sound."
The researchers say their results suggest that the experience of fine-tuning attention that is required while gaining experience of speaking two languages allows the auditory system of these individuals to become very efficient at automatically processing sound.
"Bilinguals are natural jugglers," said Marian. "The bilingual juggles linguistic input and, it appears, automatically pays greater attention to relevant versus irrelevant sounds. Rather than promoting linguistic confusion, bilingualism promotes improved 'inhibitory control,' or the ability to pick out relevant speech sounds and ignore others."
MedWire (http://www.medwire-news.md ) is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2012
Maori traditions could be squeezed out - teacher
A Kohanga Reo teacher from west Auckland fears many Maori traditions could slowly be squeezed out, if pre-schools continue to be managed by the Ministry of Education.
The Waitangi Tribunal is hearing submissions this week from Maori representatives, some of whom accuse the Crown of mainstreaming Kohanga Reo, and want to see them managed independently of the ministry.
There are about 480 kohanga centres throughout the country.
Ethel Lewin from a west Auckland kohanga says teachers do not want to see important tikanga Maori lost under ministry management.
She says it is not just about teaching mokopuna to read and write and children are welcomed as if they were on a marae.
Ethel Lewin says it is about being able to practice being their natural selves as Maori.
Top scholar's passion is to save te reo
By Jessica Sutton, www.stuff.co.nz, 21/02/2012
TOP SCHOLAR: Palmerston North's Te Kauru Nohotima is the best Te Reo Rangatira student in the country.
Palmerston North's Te Kauru Nohotima is fluent in Maori, and did not know a word of English until he was 8.
Now, immersed in an English speaking school, he often finds himself thinking in Maori or yelling to his softball team-mates in Maori, but his fluency in the language has seen him take a top New Zealand scholarship award. JESSICA SUTTON catches up with the talented student.
He's only 16 years old, but he is already passionate about keeping the Maori language alive.
After 16 years of speaking nothing but Maori with his family, Te Kauru Nohotima says he is still coming to grips with English at St Peter's College.
He is enrolled in Te Reo Rangatira – similar to Te Reo Maori but for those who grew up speaking the language – which he does via correspondence at home, with some help from the college.
Last year he sat NCEA level 1 and two papers in the language and also sat the scholarship paper, gaining the New Zealand Top Subject Scholar award.
It means Te Kauru is the best Te Reo Rangatira student in the country, and will receive $2000 a year for up to three years of tertiary education when he leaves school.
Growing up with his grandmother in Kelvin Grove, Te Kauru learnt to read, write and talk in Maori before he ever knew a word in English.
He attended Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Manawatu when he was 5, and it wasn't until he was 8 years old that he remembers learning any English.
"I understood it but I never spoke it," he says. "I wasn't surrounded by much English at home or at school. However, when I came to St Peter's, English was very difficult for me to comprehend. Over time I became more and more fluent in it, but life for a short period was quite difficult."
Te Kauru says it was often difficult to understand what people were saying in English.
"I'm still learning English, but Maori always helps me to get my ideas across in English. Sometimes I find myself talking Maori without realising, but I'm getting better at not doing that at school. At home I speak Maori most of the time."
He says that on the softball field he often yells to his team-mates in Maori.
"They're confused. They have no idea what I'm talking about. I think it's a good tactic. The other team don't know what I'm talking about either."
The teen believes the language is dying, especially in schools, and he aims to do what he can to make sure it isn't lost forever.
"Most of the Maori language evolved from the olden days when Maori then used sounds to create words, like the names of the birds. They only named them because of the sounds they make.
"What really made me passionate, and I wasn't passionate until I came to St Peter's, was I found that Maori now is slowly dying, so I'm trying my best, however I can, to keep it alive."
When he leaves school at the end of 2013, he plans to head south to the University of Otago to study Maori psychology but would also like to sit education papers extramurally through Massey University.
"I wasn't planning on becoming involved in the education field, but it seems more to be the right place if I wish to keep the language alive. I'm still experimenting with the fields of Maori education but thus far I'm more drawn to education."
St Peter's College deputy principal Catherine Gunn says the school is proud of Te Kauru's achievement.
"He's a native speaker [in Maori] and also studies very hard. He's got goals and aspirations and does everything to achieve those."
Digital tools 'to save languages'
By Jonathan Amos - www.bbc.co.uk - 18/02/2012
There's an app for everything - even an endangered language like Tuvan
Facebook, YouTube and even texting will be the salvation of many of the world's endangered languages, scientists believe.
Of the 7,000 or so languages spoken on Earth today, about half are expected to be extinct by the century's end.
Globalisation is usually blamed, but some elements of the "modern world", especially digital technology, are pushing back against the tide.
North American tribes use social media to re-engage their young, for example.
Tuvan, an indigenous tongue spoken by nomadic peoples in Siberia and Mongolia, even has an iPhone app to teach the pronunciation of words to new students.
"Small languages are using social media, YouTube, text messaging and various technologies to expand their voice and expand their presence," said K David Harrison, an associate professor of linguistics at Swarthmore College and a National Geographic Fellow.
"It's what I like to call the flipside of globalisation. We hear a lot about how globalisation exerts negative pressures on small cultures to assimilate. But a positive effect of globalisation is that you can have a language that is spoken by only five or 50 people in one remote location, and now through digital technology that language can achieve a global voice and a global audience."
Harrison, who travels the world to seek out the last speakers of vanishing languages, has been describing his work here at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
With National Geographic, he has just helped produce eight talking dictionaries.
These dictionaries contain more than 32,000 word entries in eight endangered languages. All the audio recordings have been made by native speakers, some of whom like Alfred "Bud" Lane are among the last fluent individuals in their native tongues.
Mr Lane speaks a language known as Siletz Dee-ni, which is restricted to a small area on the central Oregon coast.
"Linguists came in and labelled our language moribund, meaning it was heading for the ash heap of history; and our tribal people and our council decided that wasn't going to happen. So we devised a plan to go forward to start teaching our dialect here in the Siletz Valley," he told the meeting.
Mr Lane has sat down and recorded 14,000 words for the online dictionary. "Nothing takes the place of speakers speaking to other speakers, but this bridges a gap that was just sorely needed in our community and our tribe."
Margaret Noori is an expert in Native American studies at the University of Michigan and a speaker of Anishinaabemowin, which is the sovereign language of over 200 indigenous "nations" in Canada and the US. These communities are heavy users of Facebook.
"What we do with technology is try to connect people," Prof Noori said. "All of it is to keep the language."
Dr Harrison says not all languages can survive, and many inevitably will be lost as remaining speakers die off. But he says the new digital tools do offer a way back from the brink for a lot of languages that seemed doomed just a few years ago.
He told BBC News: "Everything that people know about the planet, about plants, animals, about how to live sustainably, the polar ice caps, the different ecosystems that humans have survived in - all this knowledge is encoded in human cultures and languages, whereas only a tiny fraction of it is encoded in the scientific literature.
"If we care about sustainability and survival on the planet, we all benefit from having this knowledge base persevered."
New degree to boost te reo
Four-year degree will help meet a shortage of expert te reo teachers
HAERE MAI: Students and their supporters are welcomed on to the marae at Massey University's Hokowhitu site to launch a new Maori immersion teaching degree.
The country's first university degree for teachers in Maori immersion schools will address a "critical shortage" in the number of Maori teachers, says the course's designer.
The Maori immersion teaching course, Te Aho Tatairangi, was launched at Massey University's Hokowhitu campus yesterday.
Massey University associate professor Huia Tomlins Jahnke, who led the development of the course, said the four-year degree would help meet a shortage of expert te reo teachers and help halt the decline of the language.
Dr Jahnke, who heads the university's School of Maori Education, said the course aimed to supply 200 Maori immersion graduates by 2020. "There is a shortage of teachers nationally, and in the Maori sector that shortage is critical and our graduates will help to build a bigger talent pool.
"It will also help the long-term rejuvenation of te reo Maori."
The 27 students enrolled in the first year of the course were welcomed at yesterday's launch at Te Kupenga o te Matauranga Marae at Hokowhitu.
Among those who attended was Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia, who said the degree – launched in the same week as Waitangi Day – was a step "along the journey of partnership". "Our founding document inspires us to consider, collectively, how to improve the participation and achievement of tangata whenua."
The Treaty also challenged New Zealanders to find ways to protect te reo and Maori culture, she said.
The qualification the students would obtain was important.
"They represent the knowledge and understanding, the kaupapa and the aspirations that will inform and influence our children and our mokopuna for years to come."
School an impetus: principal
By Nelson Mail, 23/01/2012
A new Maori language immersion school in Richmond will lead a revitalisation of the language in the top of the south, its new principal says.
The school, Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Tuia te Matangi, is expected to open to pupils in term three, with construction now under way.
On Saturday, newly appointed principal Merita Waitoa-Paki met with parents and the board at a hui at the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology Nelson campus.
Ms Waitoa-Paki was the deputy principal at Maori immersion school Kura Whakapumau in Christchurch, the first kura in the South Island, founded 15 years ago.
She said it was exciting to be able to go from one of the oldest kura to becoming a part of the country's newest immersion school.
"This is an opportunity to be different and be creative and innovative in how we develop our language."
Kura produced confident young Maori leaders, and many of those who graduated from the kura had gone on to excel in tertiary study and in society, she said.
The new facility offered Nelson a chance to revolutionise its connection with the Maori language and culture, she said. "There needs to be a revitalisation in the language in Nelson. A culture must have a language and our language is Maori.
"How can you try to identify who you are if you don't have your native tongue?"
Parents Missy Broughton and Kim Hippolite were looking forward to sending their two children to the kura.
Ms Broughton said the project had been a long time coming, and it was great to see it nearly completed.
"For me coming from a family with no education in Te Reo Maori, for my children to learn what I have missed out on is huge."
Mr Hippolite said the creation of the school would mean the region would finally have Maori native speakers again.
"I didn't grow up with a Maori language, to give my children an opportunity to learn the Maori language first has been my goal.
"It's going to be a huge impact for us. This is the re-birth of our language."
Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Tuia te Matangi board of trustees member Dayveen Stephens said about 35 pupils were registered already, most for the kura kaupapa (junior school) and three for the wharekura (senior school).
The kura will eventually cater for pupils from years 1 to 13, and will be open to students of any ethnicity.
Push-ups await slips of tongue
By Timaru Herald, 17/01/2012
'It was their choice of what we would do'
Families are converging on Arowhenua Maori School this week in a bid to break down the te reo language barrier.
Dozens of adults and children will spend the week at the Arowhenua school and marae building working on their te reo in the hope of keeping the language alive for future generations.
Manuhaea O'Regan, aged eight, is one of them. Te reo is her first language. The youngster, who will return to a te reo immersion unit at Woolston School in Christchurch this term, is one of 110 people building on their language skills this week.
She added a word to her vocabulary yesterday: pioneone (push-ups), which is what children or teachers in her class have to do if they speak English during lessons.
Educator Komene Cassidy said the children had come up with the idea in the hope it would encourage them to spend more time speaking te reo than English.
"It was their choice of what we would do."
Arohatia te Reo theme for Māori Language Week 2012
Press Release: Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Maori
Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori (The Māori Language Commission) celebrates 25 years of existence in 2012 and to celebrate have chosen Arohatia te Reo as the theme for Māori Language Week 2012.
Arohatia te Reo, as a brand, means to cherish the language and our intention through using this brand is to provide a means by which people of all walks of life can demonstrate their love and regard for the language.
"It's always a challenge designating a theme for Māori Language Week that everyone can relate too, however we're pretty confident that whether you're a priest, a business executive, a Mum, a student or a fire-fighter, or anything else for that matter – you'll be able to identify with this theme and find a way to express your love for the language", says Chief Executive, Glenis Philip-Barbara.
"Certainly the success of this year's theme manaakitanga, and the feedback about its appropriateness considering our role as host for the Rugby World Cup was a factor in selecting Arohatia te Reo as a theme for next year", says Glenis Philip-Barbara.
"As always Māori Language Week is a time for people to use and speak the language whether that's taking the time to learn, or, using the language you have more often. This year we expect this theme presents a golden opportunity for individuals, schools, groups, organisations, businesses, corporates and government departments to express all the ways you might honour, use, speak and love the language."
"Of course the challenge for us is extending the goodwill and support that Māori Language Week generates, across the whole year, so over the next few months, we, along with our partners Te Puni Kōkiri and the Human Rights Commission will be approaching other public sector organisations and corporate entities to participate and contribute to Māori Language Week 2012 celebrations and the Māori language in a more concerted manner".
Māori Language Week dates occur in the second week of the third school term i.e. 23-29 July 2012.
For more information on Māori Language Week you can contact Debra Jensen on 4716725, or refer to the website www.koreromaori.co.nz