Te reo Māori data shows 20 percent of Māori speak the language

5:19 pm on 6 April 2020

Almost one in five Māori adults can speak te reo Māori, and a third say they can understand the language at least fairly well, provisional data released by Stats NZ today show.

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Te wiki o te reo Māori parade in Wellington in September last year. (file photo) Photo: RNZ / Rob Dixon

The data was collected in Te Kupenga 2018, Stats NZ's survey of Māori wellbeing, which had 8500 Māori participants.

More than half of them said they had some te reo Māori speaking ability.

Māori people aged between 15-24 years and those over 55 were among the most likely to speak te reo Māori at least fairly well.

Wellbeing and housing statistics manager, Dr Claire Bretherton, said the high number of younger people who were able to speak te reo might reflect the emergence of Māori immersion teaching.

"Of Māori people aged between 15 and 34 years who speak at least some te reo Māori, 45 percent said they learned it through Kōhanga reo, Kura Kaupapa Māori, or Wharekura. This rose to 68 percent for those who speak te reo Māori fairly well or better."

She said data on the way people were learning te reo Māori was also collected in Te Kupenga for the first time in 2018.

"This new information on the different ways Te reo Māori is learned can now add to discussions around future strategies for revitalising the Māori language."

For those who spoke more than a few words or phrases of te reo, the most common method of learning it was by listening and speaking with relatives or friends.

Seventy-one percent of Māori adults aged 55 and over who spoke at least some te reo Māori said they learned this through listening and speaking to parents or other people living at home.

Speaking with whānau and friends, and going to hui, were important across all age groups.

Younger speakers of te reo aged between 15 and 34 were more likely than older speakers to have learned te reo through language immersion environments, such as Kōhanga reo, Kura Kaupapa Māori, or Wharekura.

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