This week is Maori Language Week. Each year, since 1975, we have had Maori Language Week, a time to remind us of the importance of the Maori language to all of us. No other country in the world speaks this language. If we do not help to keep it alive, it will not survive.
People who listen to this eslnews website already know the importance of language to their own identity. Without your language, you lose part of your identity. Although Maori have struggled to keep their identity, customs and institutions ever since the arrival of Europeans in Aotearoa, 70% of Maori in the latest census said that Maori culture is important to them. 83% were able to identify their iwi (tribe) and sometimes more than one iwi.
Today Maori are much more involved in public life. Nearly every public organisation has a Maori name as well as an English name, and many have Maori representatives for example Parliament, community organisations, and environment organisations.
Anyone who is learning English knows the value of being bi-lingual. About 60% of the people in the world are bilingual and some speak more than two languages. The majority of European New Zealanders are monolingual, however. We should not be proud of this.
A major concern is that the number of fluent Maori speakers is declining in spite of Maori TV, Maori radio stations, Kohanga Reo for pre-school children and Maori immersion schools. We can all do something to keep the language alive. Go to Maori Language Week to learn some Maori words. Or ask your school-aged children to help you learn some common words. We can also respect the language by pronouncing Maori place names correctly.
• identity – who you are (Think about your ID – your identification e.g. driver’s licence)
• struggled – to make a great effort
• Aotearoa – New Zealand – the land of the long white cloud
• census – Statistics NZ counts people, usually every 5 years
• declining – getting less
1. Why are most European New Zealanders monolingual?
2. Why are numbers of Maori speakers declining?