Should Te Reo be compulsory?

A language activist from Catalonia suggests making Te Reo compulsory.

Maori Television: Catalan Experts – Make te reo Māori compulsory

Last year Native Affairs spoke with Catalan language advocates who encouraged Aotearoa to follow the example of Catalonia by making te reo Māori compulsory here.

Catalonia is an autonomous province in Spain that includes the major city of Barcelona. It’s unique in Europe, governed by both Catalonia and Spain, with dual laws ruling the lives of those who live there.

In 1983 the Catalan government made the Catalan language compulsory in all public administrations, including schools and universities.

Now, over 4 million people speak Catalan, half the region’s population. And the language has been widely embraced throughout Catalonia.

Cristina Fons is a language activist who has been teaching Catalan for the past 25 years.

“I think that Catalan is very important, first because it is the language of the territory, of our ancestors, our tradition, and furthermore because we have a very rich history,” she says.

Cristina believes Aotearoa should follow the example of Catalonia by making te reo Māori compulsory.

And:

Humberto Burcet , a Catalan language teacher, speaks nine languages and has a PhD in te reo Māori and Samoan.

He was taken aback that te reo Māori was not more widely spoken here when he visited New Zealand.

“I went to Aotearoa to learn the Māori language, Te Reo, and for me it was surprising when I see my kids here learning Catalan….”

Like Cristina, Humberto thinks there’s every reason te reo Māori should be compulsory in Aotearoa.

“I think this is a good point to make te reo Māori available to all people who want to learn it and to make it possible to use it outside the school.”

I don’t see why te reo shouldn’t be a standard subject at school. I wouldn’t have minded learning it, it would have been more interesting and useful than the French I did.

I don’t think making it compulsory in public administrations and it shouldn’t be compulsory at University level, but it would be good if all kids became proficient.

 

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84 Comments

  1. PDB

     /  18th January 2017

    Encouraged but not made compulsory.

    Reply
  2. Kitty Catkin

     /  18th January 2017

    French is eminently more useful in the world and has a long tradition of literature. Yes, one can read many in translation, but it’s not the same..

    Make Maori available, but not compulsory-and don’t call it The Language as if there was only one.

    Reply
    • Jeeves

       /  19th January 2017

      What , like “the Bible” ??

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  19th January 2017

        Well, yes, that wasn’t written in English 🙂 Poor old Moses is Moise, le debonair, in the French BibleI was thinking of Colette, Genet, Zola, Hugo, Gide….the Old French poets…Moliere, Voltaire…

        Reply
  3. Gezza

     /  18th January 2017

    “I don’t see why te reo shouldn’t be a standard subject at school. I wouldn’t have minded learning it, it would have been more interesting and useful than the French I did.”

    Absolutely. Same here. Can’t agree with you about French. Very useful in some parts of the world. But Latin is a total loser.

    I wouldn’t object if it was a compulsory subject either, although English is obviously an extremely useful import.

    Reply
    • PDB

       /  18th January 2017

      Gezza: “Can’t agree with you about French. Very useful in some parts of the world”.

      I’ve heard it’s very useful in France?

      Latin is very useful in some professions (botany, medical etc)

      Reply
      • The French I learned at school was pretty much useless in the day I spent in France a few decades later.

        Reply
      • Gezza

         /  18th January 2017

        Have a waltz through Africa & ask for directions to the nearest long drop in Latin.

        Reply
        • PDB

           /  18th January 2017

          Cacatio Matutina Est Tamquam Medicina

          Reply
          • Gezza

             /  18th January 2017

            You do better with:

            J’ai les runs. Vite! Vite! Ou est le bog?

            Reply
            • Kitty Catkin

               /  18th January 2017

              Or ‘Eau ! de Toilette !’

              ‘Cacare volo !’ would make Latin speakers direct you to the place,

              Pants is saying that ‘A poo every day keeps the doctor away.’ Or words to that effect.

            • Gezza

               /  18th January 2017

              If that’s how he pays their bill it’s hardly surprising.

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  18th January 2017

          Ubi est latrinam terra ? Natura vocat !

          Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  18th January 2017

      Anyone who knows Latin will find all the languages derived from it fairly easy to learn and can at least work out Spanish and Italian. I was even able to follow a church service in Roumanian, which surprised me. Latin goes back thousands of years. I have never regretted learning Latin. It is an education in itself.

      I have met people who could speak Latin with ease, an enviable ability. It’s a great language for sending telegrams in, one can say so much in very few words.

      Semper ubi sub ubi ubique.

      Reply
      • Gezza

         /  18th January 2017

        The NSA would be onto you in a flash thinking you might be illegally trading in Israeli arms supplies.

        Reply
      • Indeed, like “Peccavi”, attributed to Napier.

        Reply
        • Kitty Catkin

           /  18th January 2017

          After Sind was captured 😀 . I think that that is one of the funniest puns of all time. Everyone else must have been kicking themselves for not thinking of it. The person who opened the despatch must have laughed like a drain.

          Reply
          • There’s more to it than that, apparently. I checked its source in Wikipedia and it said that, “The true author of the pun was, however, Englishwoman Catherine Winkworth, who submitted it to Punch, which then printed it as a factual report.” Which detracts, somewhat, from a follow-up story I heard about a subordinate handing the telegram to Napier’s superior saying, helpfully, that it meant, “I am in error.” The superior, knowing full well what was meant, is reputed to have said, “I sent the man to India. What the hell is he doing in bog country?”

            Reply
            • Kitty Catkin

               /  18th January 2017

              Yes, I had heard that someone else actually said it, but couldn’t remember who. I had only heard the I have sinned version, not the one about Ireland. Oh, the wit.

      • Gezza

         /  18th January 2017

        I will concede it is still de rigeuer in certain bourgeois circles & has a certain je ne sais quoi.

        Reply
        • Kitty Catkin

           /  18th January 2017

          Bourgeois circles ? Pourquoi les cercles bourgeois ?

          Reply
          • Kitty Catkin

             /  18th January 2017

            KS and I can’t be the only ones who understand the ‘peccavi’ play on words.

            Reply
            • Yet my Latin learning stopped short at “Iti sapis spotan dati none,” and “Ore stabit fortis arare placet ore stat.”

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  18th January 2017

              Oh, the urn found at Herculaneum. The version I have is ITIS/APIS/POTANDA/BIGONE 😀

              Then there’s the other version of the second, seen on a park bench ‘Ventosa viri, restabit, fortis arare placte orestin.’ which is the one I knew. This puzzles those who don’t know that v is pron. w in Latin.

              There was a telegram sent in the Boer War that said that ZULUS HAVE TAKEN UMBRAGE ENGLISH FORCES HAD TO RETREAT. Nobody could find Umbrage on the map, but the article began ‘Latest News of War; Capture of Umbrage by Zulus….

            • Umbrage! Love it! In an anachronistic world they might have said, “Umbrage? God, that’s close to home. They’ve got archers there haven’t they? Send reinforcements to Borsetshire!”

            • patupaiarehe

               /  18th January 2017

              Before you try ‘turning the handle’ on Kitty, Kit, it would be polite of you to respond to me…

        • Gezza

           /  18th January 2017

          C’est vrais. Je ne sais pourquoi.

          Re:Semper ubi sub ubi ubique
          Non autem super caput tuum.

          Reply
        • Kitty Catkin

           /  18th January 2017

          de rigueur

          .It looks wrong even when it isn’t.

          Reply
        • Gezza

           /  18th January 2017

          Merde! Not so long ago I corrected Blazer on the spelling of that. Shouldn’t have just winged it. This is the sort of thing that can start wars in worst case scenarios.

          Reply
  4. patupaiarehe

     /  18th January 2017

    The problem with ‘compulsion’, is that you will get resistance. IMHO anyone living in this country, should be able to learn to ‘Korero Te Reo’, free of charge. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink…. But if people don’t want to learn it, that is their choice, and it should be respected.

    Reply
    • I think it would be fine for primary school pupils to learn more (I think they so some now). At high school it should be optional, as most subjects are.

      Reply
      • patupaiarehe

         /  18th January 2017

        They do already Pete. Get the basics of the Kiwi ‘bastardised’ version of the Queens English. Any child educated in a public school knows that ‘haere mai’ means ‘come here’, ‘kiaora’ means ‘hello’, and that ‘haere ra’ means ‘goodbye’. They actually learn a lot more than that already. When my kids ignore me, I sometimes ask “Are your taringas painted on?”, and they know exactly what I mean… 😀

        Reply
        • Kitty Catkin

           /  18th January 2017

          I heard a girl say that she would be travelling by ‘waewae express’ not long ago; I haven’t heard that one for years.

          Reply
          • patupaiarehe

             /  18th January 2017

            You knew what she meant tho’ Kitty, didn’t you? As would most other native Kiwi’s

            Reply
            • Kitty Catkin

               /  18th January 2017

              Oh yes, but I hadn’t heard anyone say it for many years 🙂

              I use that form of transport all the time. 😀 It’s very economical, but it’s a bit slow.

            • patupaiarehe

               /  18th January 2017

              It’s very economical, but it’s a bit slow.

              A bit like myself, Kitty… 😉

  5. Surely the purpose of language is communication. So why confound it with another that adds nothing to its purpose?

    Reply
    • Many people think their native language adds to their communicating substantially.

      Reply
      • I don’t think anyone anywhere could contradict that. The issue as I see it is whether a second language, spoken nowhere else in the world (except the Cook Islands) adds to anyone else’s ability to express themselves. Maori culture itself is perforce shallow and its language, notwithstanding its advantage as a wartime code, reflects that.

        Reply
        • patupaiarehe

           /  18th January 2017

          That is sort of the point Kit. It isn’t spoken anywhere else, which is why ‘bastardising’ English with it, makes ‘Kinglish’ unique, and something to be proud of.

          Reply
          • True, and this is the truly unique thing about English, that if it needs a word, it will take it, adopt it, and treat it as its own, while crediting the original along the way. With none of France’s linguistic chauvinism.

            Reply
            • Gezza

               /  18th January 2017

              Cochon ! Saboteur ! Sacre Bleu !

            • patupaiarehe

               /  18th January 2017

              Forget the French Kit. What I find really interesting about your argument, is that you rant on endlessly here about the alleged threat that ‘the evil mozzies’ pose to our local culture, then say that

              Maori culture itself is perforce shallow and its language, notwithstanding its advantage as a wartime code, reflects that.

              Looks to me as if you have ‘a bob both ways’….

            • I’m not sure I get your point. My bête noir is Islam and its ideology, not “‘the evil mozzies'” who I leave well alone for reasons related to Western discourse, and this is no place to expand on that. Maori culture is as inseparable a part of New Zealand’s as is NZ’s take on British/American culture. What do you mean by my having ‘a bob both ways’?

            • patupaiarehe

               /  18th January 2017

              Well Kit, let’s review what you said above…

              Maori culture itself is perforce shallow and its language, notwithstanding its advantage as a wartime code, reflects that.

              Then a few minutes later…

              Maori culture is as inseparable a part of New Zealand’s as is NZ’s take on British/American culture.

              So what you seem to be saying is that we have a ‘shallow culture’ here. Maori in particular. I beg to disagree, but you are the one ‘telling a story’…

            • You seem to be implying either a paradox or hypocrisy on my part. Either way, I still don’t get it.

            • patupaiarehe

               /  18th January 2017

              I’m implying both. And you don’t get it. Patu 1, Kit 0 😀

    • Gezza

       /  18th January 2017

      Que❓

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  18th January 2017

        I can’t imagine why young Que’s parents called her that, condemning the poor thing to a life of having to (a) say that it’s not spelt Kwee, (b) that it’s pronounced Kwee and not as it is in French and Spanish (c) explain why her parents called her What.

        English is, whether people like it or not, the lingua franca of the world. It might have been French, but it happened to be English. If someone wants to spend their life on a marae and never be able to work anywhere that English is spoken, then learn nothing but Maori by all means. If you want to be employable, learn English.

        Reply
  6. PDB

     /  18th January 2017

    If it does become compulsory then someone should charge Iwi for ripping off the English alphabet which was there first……..

    Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  18th January 2017

      Tut, tut ! 😀

      Reply
    • Gezza

       /  18th January 2017

      Don’t start that nonsense or the Arabs will start charging us for our numbers.

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  18th January 2017

        Did you ever see the documentary about 0 ? I couldn’t have believed that it would be so fascinating or that such a simple thing could make such a difference.

        Even in Medieval England, the people who did the government accounts did them in Roman numerals, the show-offs, and were usually wrong. I once did a multiplication sum in Roman numerals, and it took AGES. It’s all right at first….

        Reply
  7. I am multi lingual. All three of my children are multi lingual. All of us suffered from the lack of competent language teachers at school and had to do it the hard way. We really need to push for a multilingual education system, starting with Indonesian, Bahasa Melayu, Chinese, Japanese and the languages of the Pacific.

    Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  18th January 2017

      The young daughter of a local shopkeeper speaks English and can switch to Chinese and back with great ease. A blind person would think that there were two girls there, a Kiwi and a Chinese. An estate agent calls himself a Chiwi-this may be an old joke, but I hadn’t heard it before.

      In my life I have studied French, German, Spanish, Italian, Latin and Old English-this last meant that I had little trouble with Flemish and Dutch. I learned a tiny bit of Russian and surprised myself by reading some church notices in it, but it and my Greek are all but non-existent now. I began Greek but didn’t carry on with it.

      Reply
      • Gezza

         /  18th January 2017

        My older brother is multi-lingual as well and he confirms what you say about the usefulness of Latin in getting around Europe & being able to pick up the latin-derived or infuenced languages quickly, which he did.

        He also speaks reasonable French & is semi-fluent in Maori – but can be a right pain about all this at times.

        Reply
      • patupaiarehe

         /  18th January 2017

        My eldest son’s best friend lived in Taiwan until he was 5, then his parents moved the family here. He arrived at school on the first day, not knowing a single word of English. You would never guess it now, you would think you were talking to a 5th generation pakeha if you spoke to him on the phone. He is fluent in Taiwanese, Mandarin, and English, but his grandparents still tease him about being ‘too white’! 😀

        Reply
        • Kitty Catkin

           /  18th January 2017

          I don’t whether this girl is Kiwi born or not, but if she can keep that up (I guessed that her Chinese language was as good as that of the adults) she will have a great advantage when she leaves school.

          Reply
          • patupaiarehe

             /  18th January 2017

            Which girl Kitty? Read my comment again…:D

            Reply
            • Kitty Catkin

               /  18th January 2017

              The one in a local shop 😀 Several replies up.

            • patupaiarehe

               /  18th January 2017

              Oh rightyo. Sorry, it appeared that you were replying to my comment. My bad, I understand now.

            • patupaiarehe

               /  18th January 2017

              Anyway, it is quite funny talking to his parents, as his English is MUCH better than theirs. His mum will be talking to me, in her heavy asian accent, and get ‘stuck’ in the middle of a sentence. She will then look at her boy, and say something in Taiwanese. Her boy will roll his eyes, and then say to me, in a perfect Kiwi accent, “Mum says…….” 😀

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  19th January 2017

              I wonder if my brother still remembers the kind young Indian man who didn’t spoil a little boy’s dream that he had met a ‘Red Indian’ and told him stories of riding around the prairies fighting cowboys and so on….he even gave him the bow and arrow that he’d shot cowboys with. I don’t know when my brother realised that J was from India, not the Wild West, and that the Wild West was well over 100 years before, anyway.

  8. Conspiratoor

     /  18th January 2017

    Western technological superiority has been attributed in part to the sheer number of descriptive words available to english speakers. Three times the number of the next language.
    And verb conjugation is a wet dream by comparison.

    Reply
  9. Zedd

     /  18th January 2017

    Ae, tautoko tenei whakaaro.. Te reo o Aotearoa

    Dont say it Russian, dont say it German.. just say it in ‘broken maori’ 🙂

    Reply
    • Zedd

       /  18th January 2017

      Whakaako ki tamariki kura tuatahi

      “ti hei mauriora”

      Reply
      • patupaiarehe

         /  18th January 2017

        I wouldn’t go that far Zedd. I do believe, however, that anyone who wants to learn ‘Te Reo’, has a right to do so.

        Reply
        • Zedd

           /  19th January 2017

          @patu

          When I was at high school (many many moons ago) English (Lang. & Lit) was compulsory & the only other languages that were ‘offered’ were : Latin & French.. I think German & Spanish too, if they had the numbers (a hangover from the British education system ?) BUT as an immigrant from England (1970s) I kept thinking.. “why dont they teach Te Reo (native language) of Aotearoa/NZ ?” 40 years on.. its still being debated..

          I think ‘Te reo maori’ (basic level) should be at the top of the list (with Te Reo pakeha).. & strongly recommended in NZ primary schools. “enuf sed” 🙂

          Reply
  10. Alan Wilkinson

     /  18th January 2017

    Most of the languages I have known and used aside from English were computer programming languages. Each to their own I say.

    Reply
  11. If the language has utility – it will survive.

    Its freely available – and immersion schools from kindy through secondary school are available for those who want to raise their children with both languages.

    No need for any compulsion… none at all.

    Reply
  12. Back in 1978, Maori was compulsory in the third form, as was nearly every other subject. It didn’t do me any harm but it gave me a better idea of which subjects to further specialise in the following years. I didn’t take it any further but even today have no problem pronouncing Maori words thanks to the good missionaries and I know that Maori I meet in my work appreciate the effort. That said, my adult kids took great delight in mocking me over Christmas when I referred to placenames in the less-informed lazy manner of the society in which I was brought up. Tow-po indeed!

    Reply
    • patupaiarehe

       /  18th January 2017

      Indeed Duncan! Tau-ra-nga is easily pronounced properly, by even the laziest pom. Apparently there have been fires in ‘Whiteyanger’ today…..

      Reply
  13. Wow! This topic has got to be a record for YourNZ. 70+ comments and maybe 7 of them are actually on the topic … Whole new levels of avoidance are reached and then surpassed!

    I’m not for compulsory anything much, including compulsory schooling … To me compulsory unionism is probably more justifiable …

    One requires only the tiniest iota of intelligence to see that language is more than utilitarian.

    Language is a major purveyor of culture and therefore acculturation. It communicates the culture. In English culture English language is THE major purveyor of dominant, White Supremacist, Superior Race Entitlement Colonial English culture …

    And one needs only one or two cells of empathy in one’s bodily metabolism to perceive the significance for Maori of bilingualism relative to biculturalism. It is, after all, compulsory for Maori to learn English …. They MUST be bilingual … They have no choice …

    So yeah, why not? Compulsory schooling is here to stay – worst luck – so why not compulsory te Reo for Pakeha students along with compulsory English for Maori students? And bring back compulsory unionism as well …

    Reply
    • patupaiarehe

       /  19th January 2017

      ,

      So yeah, why not? Compulsory schooling is here to stay – worst luck – so why not compulsory te Reo for Pakeha students along with compulsory English for Maori students? And bring back compulsory unionism as well …

      You’re just being silly now PZ. Have a cup of tea & a lie down, cya tomorrow…

      Reply
      • Actually …. No I’m not being silly patu.

        As Jeeves confirms below, taken up by Gezza … The language tells us who we are …

        This might be an appeal like “How come my Irish heritage and language isn’t compulsory?” or some such BS as regularly employed by The Right Brigade, although I suspect not from Jeeves … Simple fact: English is compulsory …. and the language tells us who we are …

        Why not Irish, Scots, Welsh, French and all the rest?

        Because Aotearoa New Zealand is a hapu iwi Maori country which the British Empire colonised … Just as (to my knowledge) England colonised Ireland, Scotland and Wales to create the United Kingdom … Irish to the Irish in Ireland, Welsh to the Welsh etc …

        Te Reo Maori to Aotearoa New Zealanders …
        English Rules … Okay …?

        Of course you can do whatever you like personally … Well, except NOT go to school … and NOT learn English …

        May I cite Canada as a relevant comparative example? This nation has largely forsaken and forgotten its indigenous people while establishing biculturalism and bilingualism between the two colonising powers, their cultures and languages, English & French …

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Official_bilingualism_in_Canada

        Absolutely extraordinary! Mandated bilingual racism …
        Why?
        Just as English and French are not the indigenous cultures of Canada … There is only one reason the Canadian model will not be permitted in Aotearoa New Zealand …

        To mandate the indigenous language is to ‘accept and approve’ the indigenous culture.

        Reply
        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  19th January 2017

          French in BC is just absurd. It would struggle to find a detectable percentage of native French speakers. Bilingualism exists solely as a political expedience to win votes in Quebec.

          Reply
  14. Jeeves

     /  19th January 2017

    Ní bhíonn a fhios an fiú méid a deirimid, toisc nach bhfuil siad ag iarraidh a fhios ag an luach an méid a rá againn. Chun iad, deirimid rud ar bith.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  19th January 2017

      Is ea. Insíonn an teanga agat cé muid. Labhraíonn mo dheartháir teanga seo freisin.

      Reply

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