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Growing interest . . . A group of 2018 te reo Māori students in Oamaru. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

More and more people are appreciating the key role of te reo Māori in New Zealand’s culture and identity, Oamaru Language School co-ordinator Sophia Leon de la Barra says.

The demand for te reo lessons in Oamaru was noticed when a year-long community language class using the “Takina” method began two years ago and attracted 40 students.

Since then, the number of people wanting to learn te reo Māori had continued to grow, Miss Leon de la Barra said.

The classes have been led by Ropata Paora, who developed the Takina method of teaching the language, and his son Robbie Paora.

This year, the classes are being run through the Oamaru Language School at three year levels.

Robbie will be teaching the Year 2 and 3 students, who are building their listening skills and beginning to speak conversationally, while Miss Leon de la Barra will be the kaiako (teacher) for the beginner Year 1 class.

Miss Leon de La Barra, who is originally from Australia, has been learning te reo Māori for the past 10 years and said she was passionate about creating local opportunities for others to learn.

“As a New Zealand transplant, the opportunity to learn te reo was life-changing. It really helped me to connect with the land and the culture, and to feel at home here in Aotearoa,” she said.

The Takina method was a “radically different” way of learning languages, because it was based on kinetic learning and applying it in daily life, she said.

“But you still have to do the mahi.

“If you seriously want to learn conversational te reo Māori and you are committed to the process of learning a language over a few years, Takina is a great opportunity.”

All students learning te reo Maori in Oamaru over the past two years had different motivations, she said.

And it was across the board, through age, gender and ethnicity.

Some were interested for professional development. Others wanted to revitalise the language and learn more about the culture.

One grandmother wanted to learn the language at the same time as her granddaughter did at school.

“As the whakatauki [proverb] says, ‘ko te reo te taikura o te ao mārama – language is the key to understanding’.”

Last year, the Oamaru Language School also offered Spanish and Italian classes, but there had not been nearly as much interest as in te reo Māori, Miss Leon de la Barra said.

“While the number of people interested in learning Spanish and Italian has dwindled, the number of people wanting to learn te reo is growing,” she said.

Classes are held on Wednesday nights and there are limited spots left in the Year 1 class.

To find out more, email oamaru.language.school@gmail.com.