Language is key to understanding

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Aoraki is my mountain. Waitaki is my river. The Pacific is my ocean. Whare Koa is my marae. Ōamaru is the place I stand and belong even though I am an immigrant. My name is Sophia and this is Māori Language Week. Why is this important? Because language is the key to understanding.

For many years, I wondered about the significance of language and how it impacts my world view. Despite wanting to learn an indigenous language in Australia, there were no schools or classes. So, in my first year in Dunedin, someone told me about Te Wānanga o Aotearoa and I signed up. 

The journey to learn a language is long and requires motivation and small, but consistent action. The journey is different for everyone. For me, it has been an experience to connect with Aotearoa – the culture, people, wisdom, arts, traditions, and land. This experience is what has made Aotearoa my home, my place to stand and belong.

So what does Māori Language Month mean to me? It’s a challenge to the people of Aotearoa to strengthen our Māori language so that it is resilient. For this reason, we see thousands of Te Reo speakers each year take up a challenge–to speak Te Reo more often, to only speak Te Reo for a whole week or for the whole month. 

Ever since I heard about the Mahuru Māori challenges, I thought it would be a great idea to go hitch hiking in te reo. Destination: kōrero mai. 

I have no idea where I’ll actually end up en route, but as Dan Eldon said, “the journey is the destination.” And the road to learning a language is long and full of surprising bends. You never know who you’ll befriend along the way, what landscapes your soul will drink in, what wisdom will be shared. 

My only previous experience on the North Island outside of Auckland or Wellington was going to the Kura Reo o Raukawa in Tokoroa earlier this year.  A kura reo is a full immersion language school that takes place on a marae, usually for three to five days, and it is an awesome experience. It is hard to succinctly describe days packed with the daily rituals of song, prayer, speech, and delicious shared meals interspersed on either side of cycling through fascinating classes with world-class language teachers alongside a group of my peers at a similar skill level. Have you ever been to a “class” before that teaches slang or how to play games? It’s epic!

So, two days after booking my tickets to Gisborne and registering on the Mahuru Māori website, I saw an ad for Kura Reo a Iwi o Ngāti Hauā, and it seemed like an omen. I literally had a destination, somewhere to hitch hike to on this hairbrained trip of mine.

I don’t know much more, but I have faith in humanity that I am going to be both surprised and delighted by the people and experiences I continue to encounter on my journey to learn our Māori language. Kia kaha te reo! 

Ko Aoraki te maunga. Ko Waitaki te awa. Ko Moana-nui-a-kiwa te moana. Ko Te Whare Koa te marae. Ko Te-Oha-a-Maru tōku turangawaewae ahakoa ko manene au. Ko Sophia taku ingoa. Ko tēnei te wiki o te reo Māori. He aha ai he rongonui tēnei? Nā te mea ko te reo te taikura ki te ao mārama.

E maha ngā tau, i whakaaro au i te hira o ngā reo, ā, ka whakaaweawe e pēhea taku tirohanga o te ao. Ahakoa i pirangi au ki te ako i tētahi reo tuturu nō Ahitereiria, ehara kura, ehara karaihe. Nō reira, i taku tau tuatahi i a Ōtepoti, i kōrero mai tētahi tangata i Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, ā, i rēhita au.

Ko roa te ara ki te ako i tētahi reo, ā, me toitoi manawa, me mahi ia rā. He rerekē te ara mō ia tangata, ia tangata. Ko wheako māku ki te herenga ki Aotearoa–te ahurea, ngā tangata, te mātauranga, ngā mahi toi, ngā tikanga me te whenua. I whakaahua tēnei wheako i Aotearoa ki tōku kainga, ki tōku turangawaewae. 

No reira, he aha te tikanga o te Mahuru Māori māku? Ko tētahi wero ki ngā tangata nō Aotearoa kia kaha tō tātou reo Māori kia pakari. Ko tēnei te take ka wero tokomaha ngā tangata ia tau. Ka piki ake te reo. Ka kōrero ētahi i te reo Māori anake i tētahi wiki katoa, te mārama katoa rānei.

Mai rānō i whakarongo au i ngā wero mō te Mahuru Māori, i moemoea au i tētahi wero haerenga. Ka wiriwiri kōnui ki te ara reo. Ko kōrero mai te ūnga. 

Kāore au i te tino mōhio ka tae atu hei hea, engari e ai ki Dan Eldon, “ko te haerenga te ūnga.” Ahakoa he roa te ara ki te ako i tētahi reo, he whakaoho hoki āna kōpiko. Kāore te mōhio ka whakahoa ki a wai, he aha ngā horanuku ka inu tō wairua, he aha ngā mātauranga ka toha. 

Kei a Te Ika a Maui, kotahi noa iho tāku wheako i waho a Tamaki rāua ko Pōneke, i haere atu au ki te Kura Reo o Raukawa i a Tokoroa i tēnei tau. Ko te kura reo tētahi wānanga kei te marae. E toru, e rima ngā rā te kura reo, ā, he wheako rawe.  Kei te uaua ki te whakamārama i ngā rā kiato i ngā tikanga o te waita, te karakia, te kaikōrero, te kōrero, me ngā kai reka e toha i te taha o ngā karaihe manarū rātou ko ngā kaiako reo pai ake o te ao ko āku hoa aropā nō tāku reinga pukenga. I haere koe i tētahi wā ki tētahi karaihe ka whakaako i ngā reo kīwaha, i te tākaro kemu rānei? E tumeke ana!

Nō reira, i hoko au i ngā tikiti wakarere ki Tūranga, i rēhita au ki te pae tukutuku nō Mahuru Māori, katahi ka i mātakitaki i te pānui mō te Kura Reo a Iwi o Ngāti Hauā. He tāmaki tēnei. He ūnga tuturu. Kei a au i tētahi wāhi ki te haere mā taku haerenga pōrangi nei.

Kāore au i te mōhio, engari kei a au te piripono ka whakaoho, ka manahau e ngā tangata, e ngā wheako ka tūtaki au ki taku haerenga ki te ako i tō tātou reo. Kia kaha te reo! 

★ If you are interested in learning Te Reo Māori, join the Oamaru Tākina class next term or next year by emailing: oamaru.language.school@gmail.com