Should I learn te reo Māori?

When I went to primary school in the 1960s I was taught virtually nothing on Māori related history of this country, and no te reo Māori at all. I can remember doing Po Karekare Ana in singing one year, but that was a minor curiosity only, similar to The Volga Boatmen and Frere Jacque.

I would have liked to learn about New Zealand and Māori culture and history, and I would have liked to learn some te reo Māori. I could have even chosen Māori over French in forms 3 and 4. It would have been more relevant, and more use to me.

I went to school in rural South island where there was close to no sign of anything Māori apart from the place names we mispronounced. I still think of Kawarau (the river) as Ka-worra.

A year behind me there was a Māori looking boy, but his adoptive parents didn’t look Māori. He seemed culturally non-Māori.

I found out at some stage that my best friend had some Māori ancestry, but that was nothing more than a small curiosity. He was also Catholic, but that wasn’t obvious at all either.

Outside of school I had little exposure to anything Māori. I can only remember two things Māori when I was a child, and this is a bit cringey. One:

Image result for the half gallon jar by hori

And the other:

Image result for the half gallon jar by hori

I thought they were quite funny at the time, but it seems terrible now that that was my most memorable Māori exposure.

In my late teens I lived in Auckland I played and for a couple of seasons played social rugby for Utukura, linked to a small Northland settlement. They had a Labour Weekend tournament, and we were accommodated on their marae, so I saw a bit of Māori culture there – and it was a good impression. As a pakeha I was made to feel very welcome. I also played for a rugby club that had a strong Māori influence. That was a great experience, but brief.

Over the years I have learnt some Māori words. But that’s about it.

I understand about as much spoken Māori as I do French – close to zip.

I tried to learn a bit of Esperanto in my late teens but quickly came to the conclusion it was a good idea that would never rise to popular appeal or use.

About a decade ago I did Italian night classes and dabbled with language software and CDs. Then I tried German. I have since been to Germany and Italy and France and while I could recognise a few words I was largely ignorant of foreign language conversations. (I was in Germany with someone whose first language (from way back) was German and they struggled to understand local a Franconian dialect. They simply didn’t understand a northern Swiss (German based) dialect.

To me Māori is similar – I don’t understand it when spoken, and know a few but really not many word meanings.

Some Māori culture is ok, but some not so much. I understand how much some people get into and like doing the haka, but it’s not my thing. Before rugby games on TV that’s when I get my drinks and snacks ready.

(I don’t like our anthem either – funnily the Māori version is ok, perhaps because I don’t understand the words, but I cringe at the English version, especially the lyrics).


To be honest, I have no real inclination to learn te reo Māori. I understand it’s importance to some, but it just doesn’t feel like my thing. I really have little inclination to spend time and effort on something I see little need for, for me.

In Dunedin there’s probably as much Scottish and English and Chinese and Lebanese influence as Māori. There’s a number of Japanese and Indian and Italian restaurants, even Mexican, Korean, Cambodian. And of course plenty of American franchises (that I largely avoid). Nothing Māori that I know of.

These are all just a pot pourri of cultural curiosities to me. I don’t feel any real affinity or attraction to any of them.

In the modern world people like me may be increasingly common – we have some sort of culture but it’s hard to define what it is. Perhaps it could be described as a beige culture, borrowing from a diverse range of influences.

If RNZ keeps going further into everyday Māori language use then I will be less inclined to listen. I find the little spiels that reporters sign of their reports with unnecessary and distracting.

If I was younger I might have a different view. But I really have little interest in doing anything other than continue to pick up bits of Māori, without going out of my way to do more than that.

And this should all be my choice to make. I shouldn’t feel like I need to learn te reo Māori if I don’t want to. It is easy to do without in everyday life.

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36 Comments

  1. Corky

     /  September 11, 2018

    Maori is a dead language walking. A beautiful language. Old time Maori my grandparents spoke was soft and rounded verses the sharper pronunciation of modern Maori. I say its a dead language walking because many younger Maori only learn the language as something to do..something they perceive as required. That’s until the latest rap song or video game is released, then their lack of passion for Maori language becomes apparent.

    Therefore it’s not surprising communists like Mahuta and Davidson and Morrison want learning Maori made compulsory.

    I wouldn’t beat yourself up over this issue, Pete.

    Reply
    • I’m not beating myself up. I’m just saying what I think about it.

      Reply
    • Ray

       /  September 11, 2018

      When I went to School Latin was compulsory if you wanted to do a couple of degrees, it is very much a dead language.
      When it comes to Māori it is worth remembering that the dialect being imposed is the Ngapuhi version which is a long way from the version spoken in the south, consequently words like Kaiworra is closer to the local version and Matagouri which is how it sounded as against the supposedly correct Matakoura.
      It is worth noting that Bill English managed to become quite fluent while holding down some serious jobs meanwhile our present PM is not, though she will be reading the baby Māori stories, virtual signaling….!

      Reply
      • Blazer

         /  September 11, 2018

        is it worth noting that Guyon Espiner is very fluent in Te Reo but Barry Soper is …hopeless.?

        Reply
      • Gezza

         /  September 11, 2018

        She can’t even speak English properly. Her Maori is hopelessly bad. It takes 15-30 minutes max to learn proper Maori vowel pronunciation. She hasn’t even mastered that.

        Tee Aroha indeed.

        Reply
        • Kitty Catkin

           /  September 11, 2018

          We certainly did some at primary school and learned songs which I can still sing although I have forgotten much of the meanings..

          I have in my possession some old school exercises from various eras (the first is from 1917 and was inside my 1890s dictionary) of Maori words and expressions. These are hand-written. They really are museum pieces.But they are proof that 100 years ago and more it was being taught.

          Reply
          • Kitty Catkin

             /  September 11, 2018

            Ray, do you remember this little ditty ?

            Latin is a language
            That’s dead as dead can be.
            It killed the Ancient Romans,
            And now it’s killing me.

            Dead all those who spoke it,
            Dead all those who learned it,
            Dead all those who wrote it –
            Oh, bless-ed death, they’ve earned it.

            I will never regret learning Latin, and wish that I had carried it on at university (I only did one year of it there, three at school)

            Reply
            • Kitty Catkin

               /  September 11, 2018

              Which other language can have a one letter sentence ?

              ‘I ! ‘ (“Go !”)

              Then there’s Malo malo malo malo. (I’d rather be a ship at sea/Than a naughty boy in an apple tree)

              In mari meri miri mori muri placet ( in a sea of marvellous wine, it pleases mice to die)

  2. Alan Wilkinson

     /  September 11, 2018

    As I said yesterday, there are lots of useful Maori words and phrases that everyone understands and contribute to making our mostly English language work for us in this country. That is the real way Maori will live on.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  September 11, 2018

      Well, there’s known and widely reported to be a shortage of Maori language teachers – nowhere near enough to meet reported demand – and I recall someone in Maoridom saying on te news that over the next 8 years or so those kaumatua most familiar with it & who have been relied on to do it will be dying off.

      I think it is a language that should be offered but the way it is taught is going to have to be re-evaluated because claims that Maori immersion is the only way to do will make that impossible, and other languages don’t require cultural immersion to learn to conversational level.

      If it can’t be taught in ways that meet the need it won’t last. To survive & thrive it needs to be spoken regularly. I’ve forgotten most of my French when I once understood it well.

      Reply
  3. Gezza

     /  September 11, 2018

    I understand about as much spoken Māori as I do French – close to zip.

    Sacre bleu ! Quelle horreur !

    Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  September 11, 2018

      C’est affreux. Mais il semble que Pierre parle le langue des Etats-Unis; il dit le mot vilaine ‘zip’.Pourquoi pas dire ‘none’ ?

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  September 11, 2018

        Bonjour, PDTs.Il se voit que vous n’avez jamais appris autres langues.

        Bouchon, c’est toi ?

        Reply
        • Kitty Catkin

           /  September 11, 2018

          Oui, c’est toi et tres autres avec rien a faire ce soir et tous les soirs.

          Reply
  4. Alan Wilkinson

     /  September 11, 2018

    English is full of dead languages.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  September 11, 2018

      So true.

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  September 11, 2018

        Like circus, odium, interior, extra and speculator.

        Reply
        • Kitty Catkin

           /  September 11, 2018

          There are two doctors in Trollope whose names are are Sir Lamda Mewnew and Sir Omicron Pie….hilarious !

          Reply
          • Kitty Catkin

             /  September 11, 2018

            And three PDTs who are phalli impudici.

            Reply
            • Kitty Catkin

               /  September 11, 2018

              And who don’t realise that all the words I quoted are Latin (except the two names, of course)

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  September 11, 2018

              And who must have some way of knowing when certain people post so that they can hurry on and downtick them, poor sad PDTs,

  5. NOEL

     /  September 11, 2018

    Not sure if Frence was compulsory but do remember it been touted as the language of commrrce and was necessary. The generation behind me it was Japanese, unneccessary because of the demand for English teachers in Japan. They been followed by the touting of Chinese because we have a free trade agreement..

    Only used the French I learned once and by that time I was so rusty I messed the translation.
    Only language I regret not learning was Maori.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  September 11, 2018

      Same. If it was offered as a choice to me today I’d take French again, and Maori.
      The only thing Latin was any use for was teaching me to pronounce the European Latin languages, & Maori and other polynesian languages, correctly with ease.

      Reply
    • Blazer

       /  September 11, 2018

      the only french you need is…’voulez vous couchez avec moi…cest soir”..

      Reply
      • NOEL

         /  September 11, 2018

        You watch to much Coronation Street Blazer,

        Reply
        • Blazer

           /  September 11, 2018

          don’t bother…Big Bang Theory,Country Calendar and some docos about my lot as far as TV goes.

          Reply
      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  September 11, 2018

        There you are, G. I warned you.

        Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  September 11, 2018

        C’est ‘Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir ?’

        You had ”Will you sleep with me… it’s evening.’

        Reply
        • Kitty Catkin

           /  September 11, 2018

          Gezza, when you hear ‘Omnis Gallia in tres partes divisa est.’ does it make you laugh ?

          Reply
          • Gezza

             /  September 11, 2018

            Nope. I am simply reminded what a sarcastic prick Cabbage, my Latin teacher, who encouraged other kids to bully the slow, fat kid, was.

            Reply
            • Kitty Catkin

               /  September 11, 2018

              Phallus impudicus Caulis erat.

              Cabbage was an arrogant prick.

              Here come the three stooges to downtick this.

  6. Zedd

     /  September 11, 2018

    There are 2 ‘maori channels’ on freeview.. a ‘window on the maori world’ & there are language shows: ‘Ako’ & ‘Opaki’ with Wh. Pania Papa, if any folks want to get started.

    a maori woman (fluent speaker) said to me “Dont try to translate it (into English) just listen to the korero & try to understand the kaupapa”

    “Kia kaha kaikorero me akonga o te Reo.. Rawe” 🙂

    Reply
  7. sorethumb

     /  September 11, 2018

    The praise heaped on Maori culture is like comparing the music of Dunsandel with Liverpool?

    Reply
  8. sorethumb

     /  September 11, 2018

    Thousands of school kids, parents, organisations, businesses and government representatives blocked the main street through Lambton Quay to celebrate te reo Māori.

    https://www.radionz.co.nz/news/te-manu-korihi/366095/wellington-turns-out-for-te-wiki-o-te-reo-maori

    Reply
    • Corky

       /  September 11, 2018

      I wonder how many of them are, or have, succeeded with a basic education? As Scotty Morrison says: ”people want to be seen as cool by speaking Maori.”

      So true. Collectivist no- thinking sheep who want to be part of an idiotic herd at the mercy of people with agendas. Baa Baa!!

      Reply
  1. Should I learn te reo Māori? — Your NZ – NZ Conservative Coalition

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