Tertiary students take lead in te reo

By Jessica Tyson

Published in Te Waha Nui http://www.tewahanui.info/

GOT IT ON LOCK: Waimirirangi Koopu-Stone and Tamoko Osborne have big plans to showcase te reo Maori to the world.  Photo by Jessica Tyson

GOT IT ON LOCK: Waimirirangi Koopu-Stone and Tamoko Osborne have big plans to showcase te reo Maori to the world.
Photo by Jessica Tyson

Tertiary students are taking the lead in motivating people to learn, speak, text and Facebook as much te reo Māori as possible.

Auckland University students, Tamoko Ormsby and Waimirirangi Stone created the initiative, Ngā Manu Korihi, to bring Aotearoa’s indigenous language to light.

It started as a one-week event in August where members were given a coloured wristband based on their level of confidence – green for beginners, yellow for casual speakers, orange for conversational speakers and purple for experts.

At first the initiative had only expected to attract students but by the end of the week more than 250 children, parents and grandparents from as far away as Australia had signed up.

Mr Ormsby from, Ngāti Mahuta, Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngai Te Rangi and Ngati Ranginui, said the initiative is all about “getting the right mind-set and not losing what makes us Māori.”

“Even though you can speak it, it just [feels] shameful. So we set up Ngā Manu Korihi partly because of ourselves, but also because of the things we’ve been through to break that social barrier,” he said.

Miss Stone, from Ngatiwai, Te Arawa and Apanui, said giving people a wristband empowered members to understand that they can speak Māori if they put a little effort in.

“It was kind of like a placebo affect. You give someone something with the intention of making them better at something. But really it’s just themselves believing that they can be better so that they are,” said Miss Stone.

She said even though she was bought up in full immersion Māori schooling, she was only confident speaking te reo around teachers and elderly people.

“I was deputy head girl and had to stand up to those kinds of things. But if it was casual or informal speaking I would get muddled up and wouldn’t be confident enough to stay in a consistent conversation,” said Miss Stone.

AUT University of Technology te reo Māori lecturer, Valance Smith, is impressed the students are leading the way.

“I think its part of the revitalisation of the reo that the rangatahi do take this on board. It’s also a testament to their maturity in recognising that it’s not for our Mum, Dad or elders to carry this load – It’s for everybody to carry this load.”

Statistics New Zealand showed in 2013 only 21.3 per cent of Māori could hold a conversation in te reo Māori – a 4.8 per cent decrease from the 2006 Census.

Of those who could hold a conversation, 26.3 per cent were aged under 15 to 29 years. Forty per cent were aged 30 to 64, suggesting older generations are more likely to speak the language.

“The students taking it on board is a reflection of a lot of mahi that our elders have paved the path for – and it’s also recognising, from our rangatahi, that the reo is not in a good place,” said Mr Smith.

Communicating the importance of te reo Māori through to as many people as possible “whether it’s Australian’s or whether it’s non-Māori is an awesome kaupapa,” said Mr Smith.

“Māori are custodians of the reo and te reo is a gift from the Gods to the whole world, and our job is to ensure the reo is shared to as many people as possible”.

Mr Ormsby and Miss Stone are planning to hold the event once a month and have approached other University Associations to take part and attract people from all cultures.

“We want it to spread throughout New Zealand. We don’t just want to keep it for us,” said Miss Stone.

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