14 Sep 2021

Te reo Māori growth boosted by apps, social media

5:44 pm on 14 September 2021

Increasing numbers of people are using the web, apps and social media to learn te reo Māori and promote the language.

close-up phone mobile in woman hand holding and touch on blank screen, new modern people lifestyle

Photo: 123RF

Surveys suggest most Māori are not learning te reo in the classroom, instead using the internet, listening to relatives and attending hui.

People are using technology to teach and learn phrases and kupu - and normalising the reo through comedy.

Notable TikTok content creator Te Aorere Pewhairangi has been providing plenty of laughs for many over lockdown and uses the social media platform to share kupu Māori.

But the reo Māori advocate and social media user says he uses the platform because it is an easy way to reach a diverse range of people - subtly inserting reo in his content.

"I try put kupu Māori into my content so people are learning subconsciously and learning intuitively while they enjoy my content," Pewhairangi said.

Pewhairangi likens technology to the tools of the Pākehā as referenced in this renowned whakatauāki from Apirana Ngata.

"E tipu e rea mo ngā rā o tō ao, ko tō ringa ki ngā rākau ā te Pākehā - grow forth for the days of your life and make sure to reach or grab the tools of the Pākehā and utilises the tools of the Pākehā.

"Hei ara mō tō tinana - to better fit you physically.

"Ko tō wairua ki ngā tāonga a ō tīpuna Māori - but your spirit or your soul to the treasures of your ancestors and one of them being te reo Māori," he said.

One app that helps people learn te reo Māori is the Kōrerorero app which provides phrases that can be used in day to day conversations.

It was launched last year during Māori language week.

One of the co-creators, AUT lecturer and staunch reo advocate is Hemi Kelly who also set up popular social media account Every Day Māori which has garnered more than 103,100 followers on Facebook and 24,000 on Instagram.

He said technology was the perfect vehicle to keep the language alive.

"I think the vast majority are quite aware our language needs to be living in this space of technology, in apps, in translator hubs, in all those things for it to continue to thrive," he said.

Waikato University associate professor Te Taka Keegan worked with Microsoft to develop te reo Māori into their operating system as well as Google.

He said it made the language a lot more accessible to people all around the world. But technology isn't the driver of saving the language.

"We can't expect technology to save our language, we have to have people who want to save our language using it, it's people driving the revitalisation."

Keegan said social media played a key role.

"I am all for social media as an avenue to learn and an avenue to share ideas, its a great way to communicate and you can communicate a lot more quicker and with a much wider audience than you can with traditional means.

Te Taura Whiri, the Māori Language Commission chairperson Rawinia Higgins said it made sure people had access to resources to learn te reo Māori.

"One of the things around language vitalisation is that you want to provide diverse range of mediums for people to access the language because often they are under different kinds of pressures and can't attend a physical class."

Apps you can download to help you learn te reo Māori

Kiwa digital has created many apps that help people learn te reo Māori - including tailored apps for a range of organisations which are available to the public.

You can see a list of them here.

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