14 Aug 2018

Govt sets goal to have a million kiwis speaking basic reo by 2040

11:38 am on 14 August 2018

The government's goal to have one million New Zealanders able to speak basic reo Māori by 2040 is achievable, a Māori Language teacher says


Photo: RNZ/Tom Furley

That is despite there being only 125,000 speakers of te reo in the country according to census 2013.

A draft of Te Maihi Karauna, or the first ever Crown Māori Language Strategy, was released late last week.

The government not only wants an increase in te reo speakers, it also wants 150,000 Māori to speak it as a primary language, and the country as a whole to value te reo as a central part of national identity.

Jack Baker, a teacher at Te Kura Māori o Porirua, said New Zealanders were already on the right track, and he was confident that could be achieved.

"We're getting speakers from mainstream kura winning Te Manu Korero. There's way more kura Māori than there was when I was at school [and] the reo is amazing now.

"Everything has lifted, actually, and that's what we want. Twenty years is a long time and a lot can happen."

Māori Development Minister, Nanaia Mahuta, encouraged people to have their say on the draft strategy - with public submissions now open.

Mr Baker said one thing he wanted the government to consider was how they would educate people on the relevance of learning te reo.

"I do hear, very often, people using the argument that it's not relevant. Obviously it is, but it's about educating people about how it is relevant to them.

"At this stage there's quite a lot of people that can't emotionally get in touch with the importance of te reo Māori."

Te Ataahia Castorina teaches basic reo Māori and tikanga to adults.

She was optimistic about the draft reo Māori strategy, but said the government had a lot to think about.

"We have a number of people wanting to learn and now they're on waiting lists. What do they do in the meantime?"

"How can we provide them with spaces to practise the reo that they are learning? Do the government need to prioritise giving higher pay to te reo Māori teachers so that there's more incentive for people to become te reo Māori teachers?"

Sam Maree-Brown is studying te reo Māori for the first time, and said she would love to be able to speak Māori to her grandparents one day.

There was a wave of other young people who wanted to learn the language too, she said.

"I think it's achievable. People in my class who are non-Māori, they just go, 'woah, I'm really interested in learning it.'"

"My other friends are like me, their family speaks it but they don't, so they're also wanting to learn it."

Public submissions on the draft reo Māori policy will close at the end of September.

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