'The conversation still goes on'

9:11 am on 5 December 2017

It's been 45 years since Rawiri Paratene delivered a petition to Parliament aimed at saving te reo Māori.

RNZ's Māori Issues correspondent Mihingarangi Forbes with actor and te reo advocate Rawiri Paratene.

RNZ's Māori Issues correspondent Mihingarangi Forbes with actor and te reo advocate Rawiri Paratene. Photo: RNZ

"What we wanted was for government to stand up and take responsibility and play their role in not just keeping it alive, but reviving it and bringing it back into use."

At that time, te reo Māori was not even a subject for school certificate.

Mr Paratene said the conversation does still go on. Without wanting to name names, he said there was an older gentlemen who had thrust himself forward again.

"He's getting a lot of attack particularly from younger Māori who are even more hōhā than I am. But I understand where he comes from.

"I'm disappointed he still comes from there, because the generations after him aren't so much of Pākehā. Aren't so much caught up in that place."

Last year RNZ started taking some real baby steps on their reo Māori journey for Māori Language Week.

But it went for longer than that, we're still doing it this year.

Alex Perrottet, producer for Morning Report, said the feedback to Guyon Espiner's te reo introductions is normally comprised by one or two texts complaining about the "gibberish".

However, the positive feedback is overwhelming. Mr Perrottet said they've had feedback from 40-year-old Pākehā men who said they're inspired to learn the language.

Mr Espiner said his reo journey had improved since he found the time to actually get lessons in the language rather than teaching himself. He has just finished his level 1 course for the year.

He said most of the grumpiness had come from a small proportion of very vocal and very grumpy people, who've had quite high platforms.

"What I'm doing isn't a lot and I feel a little bit whakamā (embarrassed) that there's heaps of real advocates out there that have been battling away on this for years and being copping the real flak at the front line.

"If I'm doing a little bit, it's maybe encouraging others to take those first few steps."

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