22 Jul 2015

The importance of correctly pronouncing Māori words

From Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan, 2:20 pm on 22 July 2015

A 15-year-old Kāpiti College student has written a speech that has got people talking. Year 11 student Finnian Galbraith posted his speech on YouTube on Monday and it's attracted over 35,000 views already.

Finnian talks about why he wrote it.

Picked up by international websites such as the BBC and the Guardian, the youtube video has continued to get views and international attention. It has now had close to 120,000 views and the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive.

Finnian said he wasn't expecting the attention the video has received.

"I had absolutely no idea it was going to come to this - it's amazing really," he told Afternoons.

Asked what prompted his impassioned plea for respect for the indigenous language, Finnian said he had te reo Maori class at Paekakariki Primary School once a week and he sees the preservation of Maori culture as a big issue.

He said the link was originally shared with teachers at Kapiti College and "it just kind of exploded from there ... it's gone crazy".

"I've had heaps of congratulations from other people," Finnian says. "It's pretty awesome."

Those reactions include: "Kia Ora Finnian you absolutely rock!! Your speech is fantastic and so true"; "Come on New Zealand, listen to what this delightful young man is saying. Go Finnian"; "great speech, an hour a week should be compulsory in NZ. I would like to see Te Reo as part of a standard NZ curriculum for primary kids"; and simply "Kia ora 'cuz' ".

In the video, Finnian says culture is "priceless" and New Zealanders should be proud of the Maori language, which is part of all New Zealanders' culture. Yet on TV and on the radio, people see and hear so many people mispronouncing Maori names and words everyday.

Pronouncing te reo Maori correctly is a big step forward in preserving the culture, Finnian says: "If we lose the language - the pillar of tradition - the whole culture will be weakened and a whole lot of history and knowledge will be lost without the language."

As an official language, te reo Maori should be pronounced correctly. He says there is no "Pakeha way" of saying Maori words and it's not hard - people can learn just by listening.

For example, Finnian says there are just five key vowel sounds and people already know who to say them, for example Ka from Kapiti sounds like the car we drive, and Rau from Raumati sounds like rowing a boat.

Giving it a go and being willing to learn is what counts, Finnian says.

Some internet commentators are predicting a bright future for the 15-year-old. He told Radio New Zealand he is always looking for new opportunities and new things to do so - watch this space.


Get the RNZ app

for easy access to all your favourite programmes

Subscribe to Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan

Podcast (MP3) Oggcast (Vorbis)