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Learning te reo good for the mind, body and wairua


Musician Stan Walker has brought te reo into the mainstream, releasing an album, in te reo, called Te Arohanui.

Rāwhai Wetere/Supplied

Musician Stan Walker has brought te reo into the mainstream, releasing an album, in te reo, called Te Arohanui.

Column: In the past few years more and more words from te reo Māori are appearing more frequently in the context of both spoken and written English.

For some people this may be confrontational, but others welcome this development as an opportunity to extend their vocabulary with words which have connotations outside the range of whatever literal English translations may offer.

The word kōrero, for instance, has connotations subtly different from those of the English word “talk”.

English, of course, has gathered its vocabulary from a great number of other languages – in words fully absorbed into the language, and also just as acceptable foreign phrasings (“déja vu” or “terra firma” for example).

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* Simplifying grammar a good lesson to learn on your te reo journey

No doubt early English settlers in New Zealand became familiar with words such whare, waiata, wahine and so on.

One of the words of any Polynesian language to become firmly embedded in English at a relatively early stage in European exploration of the Pacific was “taboo” (Māori tapu) apparently adopted from Tongan by Captain Cook.

Naida Glavish has been appointed a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

Supplied

Naida Glavish has been appointed a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

A notable “landmark” in the story of Māori words entering into New Zealand English speech occurred nearly 40 years ago (in 1984) when Naida Glavish (now Dame) a New Zealand Post Office telephone operator greeted inquiries with “Kia ora.” This caused much controversy at the time, but Prime Minister, Robert Muldoon supported Glavish.

It’s understandable that some people should be disturbed by the unfamiliar, but extending one’s vocabulary is surely a good thing? Who, really, can want one’s language to be static?

Adopting words and phrases from other languages than one’s own, though, is not at all the same thing as actually learning the other language.

The differences between te reo Māori and English are considerable, and certainly, for those long-habituated to English patterns of expression, fully coming to terms with these differences can take time and persistence.

STACY SQUIRES/STUFF

Fluent teo reo speakers Jeanette King and Jeffrey Paparoa Holma, a Pākehā couple in Christchurch, hope the resurgence of Māori language will continue to grow.

But anyone literate in English at least has the advantage that, in written form, te reo runs from left to right, using letters from the same alphabet as English.

The aim in these columns is to elucidate grammatical differences, between te reo and English, feature by feature, as thoroughly as is possible within the limitations of short articles.

It could be stressed, however, that these explanations are probably best regarded as reference material, supplementary to learning through any of the various courses available.

Recent studies have indicated that learning another language offers several benefits in terms of mental health – and maybe, with a new year beginning under restrictions imposed in the attempt to curtail the spread of Covid-19, now could be a good time for further exploration of te reo Māori.

STUFF

Dr Rāpata Wiri has been teaching te reo Māori to students at universities and wānanga in New Zealand and Hawaii and sees technology as a big help in the future. (First published September 12, 2021)



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