Aucklanders embracing te reo Māori lessons

6:39 pm on 11 September 2018

Aucklanders have leapt at the chance of attending a free te reo class to kick off Māori language week.

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Eddie Mei is taking lessons to try and fulfil his ambition to speak te reo Māori on his marae and his wife Andrea Mei came along to support him and to challenge herself. Photo: RNZ / John Boynton

About 100 people turned up to the ANZ Centre in Auckland's city centre last night to learn their a-e-i-o-u's.

Eddie Mei's desire to learn te reo Māori comes from a deeply personal place.

"My biggest ambition is to be able to speak te reo Māori on our marae - which I've never been able to do.

"It's quite sad and quite emotional that I've never been able to do that."

The West Aucklander joined the 100 or so people for free te reo Māori lessons.

He came along with his wife Andrea Mei - who came to support her husband, but also challenge herself.

"Probably learning to pronounce words probably that's going to be a challenge in itself for me," she said.

As a schoolboy Eddie wasn't allowed to speak Māori at school - so his parents decided against teaching him and his siblings the language.

Mr Mei said he regretted not taking the chance to learn te reo in the past as his sister and uncle both taught te reo.

"I feel guilty because I've had ample opportunity in my lifetime to actually learn ... sadly I just didn't find the time to or didn't make the time."

However, Mr Mei is now ready to fulfil his dream of speaking te reo Māori at his marae, Piripari which sits on the edge of the Te Urewera ranges.

"I'd be overwhelmed, over the moon - it would mean quite a lot, this is just a step in the right direction."

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ANZ head of Māori relationships David Harrison said the te reo Māori classes were started by Māori staff at ANZ. Photo: RNZ / John Boynton

Large group te reo Māori lessons have been a popular way for people to engage with the language in recent months.

Christchurch restaurant owner Anton Matthews started te reo Māori lessons at a local school hall - and hundreds turned up despite the cold winter weather.

Cecily Rushton said the fact more and more people were taking up te reo Māori is because New Zealanders want to learn about who they are.

"There's a greater realisation that it's part of our roots - we need to know more about our country and the languages."

ANZ head of Māori relationships David Harrison said these te reo Māori classes were started by Māori staff at ANZ.

"Change doesn't always have to be through one big event - it can be through lots of small steps and I guess we see this as a small step helping people start the course of learning about te reo Māori and Māori culture.

The te reo Māori lessons will continue for the next five weeks.

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