Maori Language


The NZS.nz Maori Language article contains information and a first hand account of learning Maori language at home in New Zealand.

Interested in learning Maori language at home? Give it a try – it’s cool to korero.

Celebration of Maori language in New Zealand gains in popularity as time goes on. In recent years events such as Maori Language Week have raised awareness of the importance of supporting New Zealand’s native culture and language.

The recent decline in Maori language speaking in New Zealand is alarming. Showing that only a small percentage of Maori are fluent in Te Reo Maori. The best way to revitalise the language is to teach young children in their home and schooling environment.

In many New Zealand homes parents are beginning to speak to their children in both English and Maori in an attempt to raise a more culturally aware and a naturally bi lingual youth. Interested in learning more Maori? Here are some hints and tips to refresh, reinforce and begin learning Maori around the home!

Label It

I decided to start learning Maori when I first went to meet my partner’s family. Being greeted at his mothers front door with a “Kia Ora! Kei te pēhea koe?” left me at a bit of a loss. My understanding of the Maori language started and ended with Kia Ora. It took an uneasy smile and a red flush across my face for his mother to ask how I was in English. From that moment on I decided it was time for me to learn more about New Zealand and Maori.

To begin my brand new language lease on life my partner bought fluorescent pink post its and began labeling everything in our house. He wrote everything out as neatly as possible, first in Maori then phonetically. If you’re not lucky enough to have a fluent Maori speaker and writer in your home check out Maori language sites for translations, spellings and pronunciations of common Maori words. These visual connections with words helped me a great deal in remembering words. Children and adults alike can use this technique to help with memorising new words.

To begin with I still spoke English throughout the house, just with the occasional Maori noun thrown in. After a few weeks I began double checking less, and eventually I stopped checking the post its all together.

Language Zones

Creating Maori zones of the house is a good way to begin conversation building and proficiency. As I had learnt mostly kiihini (kitchen) related words during this time we decided that the kitchen would be our first Maori only zone. I then began learning basic phrases such as “can you pass the…” (“homai te..”) and “put away the..” (“whakahokia…”) “are you hungry?” (“E mate kai ana koe?”) and so on. The aim was to learn 10 new Maori words a week and at least two new phrases. Within a matter of weeks I was confident in my control of kitchen Maori, and also nagging in Maori.

Maori Media

A good way of picking up new phrases and grammar practices is to listen to, read and watch Maori language media. The more you surround yourself with Maori the more a part of life it will become, even something as simple as changing your google page to Maori can help. Also young children are more likely to pick up new things the more they are confronted with them. Try reading aloud in Maori to your children and do small fun tests on the vocabulary.

Ask For Help

Never be ashamed to test out your newly learned Maori words and phrases on more seasoned Maori speakers. Most will be supportive and happy to help you in your learning endeavors. They can even offer helpful advice on pronunciation or more colloquial phrases. Being public about learning Maori can be most useful when in a class room environment. Taking up a part time language course in Maori will help you along enormously and help you meet new friends in the same situation!

Get Interested

The best way to begin learning Maori is to talk about things that interest you or things you talk about on a regular basis. Fun things such as singing songs in Maori or learning how to flirt can spark your interest more than boring drills!

Using these helpful hints you too could be on your way to learning the beautiful, soulful, metaphorical Te Reo Maori and showing your support for Kiwi heritage.