I have been learning te reo Mäori now for three years. I am of Jewish-German descent and grew up in Australia. I left at age 19 and my wanderings took me to Israel and then here to Aotearoa.
I have a tendency to throw myself headlong into whatever I do – it has been no exception with learning te reo Maori. At work, socially and just about everywhere I go I am outspoken about what I am doing. My close people think it’s great that I am doing this and I am grateful for their support. Then there are the many random people that I talk to at work, neighbours and others I meet during day to day interactions. A few find it hard to cover up their racist views and some possibly think I am just plain crazy. ( I do live in a very white, right, middle class area.) The majority of people though will say something like “that’s nice” (not really interested) and others ask “but why?”, “what for?” and most will ask “what are you going to do with it?” My responses vary from short and sweet “Why not” to longer discussions if people want to know more.
I have been thinking about why so many people that I meet find it so curious and need to question me (or anyone) as to why I am learning an official language, the first language of our country. Ko te reo rangatira. Would people in France ask someone why they are learning French? We are in the Pacific and Mäori is a pacific language. It belongs here and the more I learn the more it feels so right for this place. As I have said before a culture cannot be really known until the language is known. Te ao Mäori has so much to offer. Apart from the reo being beautiful, poetic, spiritual and in tune with nature, the tikanga also has a deep and inherent wisdom. My hope is for it to be just a normal thing for all people to learn and speak Mäori.
Here’s to a truly bi-cultural country! People who are bi-lingual do better, kids learn better. You can see things from different perspectives and be more compassionate towards differences. Make te reo Mäori compulsory in schools!!
Oy vey: I’m sounding like a politician.
Ka pai: Kua whakaputa ahau i täku whakaaro e pä ana ki tënei kaupapa.