Taurapa’s te reo journey

E ora ai te reo ~ For the language to survive

I tupu ake au ki Ō Tautahi, ki tētahi o ngā wāhi i Aotearoa me uaua ka kitea ngā kanohi Māori. I korā ōku mātua rātou ko tōku tuakana, ko tōku tuahine. Nōku e tupu mai ana, ko te arero matua o te kāinga ko te reo Pākehā. He māngere noa nō mātou, i te mea, i oti i a mātou katoa te kōrero Māori. Heoti, i te hapori whānui, i āhua tiro makutu mai ētahi pēnā i kōrero Māori ki ngā wāhi hāunga i te kura. Ko āta whakatahangia tērā āhuatanga i ngā tau ko taha nei, ā, e kaha ngana ana mātou ki te kōrero i te reo Māori i te kāinga, waihoki, i te hapori whānui. He kōrero Māori anake tāku ki āku irāmutu, me te aha hoki, he ōrite tāku ki tōku tuakana rāua ko tōku tuahine ā-waha mai, ā-pātuhi mai, ā-atu atu raini. He mea āhua pōturi te pātuhi nā te hīkaka o tāku waea ki te whakatika i ia kupu, ahakoa tēnā, he reka ngā hua ka puta, ka mutu, e oti i ahau te whakawhiti whakaaro mō ngā momo kaupapa e kore nei e taea ana ki te reo Pākehā.

I grew up in Christchurch, one of the least Māori places in Aotearoa. At home, I had my parents around, as well as my older brother and younger sister. Growing up, the main language of conversation at home was English. This was purely out of laziness, because we could all speak Māori. But also, there always seemed to be a sort of stigma from others in the community around speaking it in places other than school. This has changed gradually over the years, and now we make a conscious effort to speak as much te reo Māori at home and out in public as possible. I only speak to my nieces and nephew in te reo Māori, and the same goes for my siblings when we talk or even text each other. Texting is a bit slower because my phone autocorrects almost every word, but I find it much more rewarding, and I am able to communicate certain ideas that just aren’t present in English.

He nako nō tōku matua kia matatau mātou, āna tamariki, ki te reo Māori i tukuna mātou katoa ki Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Whānau Tahi. Ki konā, tīmata ōkawa ai tōku ara ki te reo Māori, ahakoa i te kōrero kē mātou i te kāinga. Kāore au i tino ruku ki te reo i ahau e kura ana ki Te Whānau Tahi, heoti, kāhore i pērā rawa te kino i rite tonu te kohete mai nā te reo Pākehā. Kāore i ahau te māramatanga kia tino mōhio ki te pito mata ōku pēnā i koke tonu taku whai i te reo Māori. I taua wā, kāore he tino aha ki ahau, engari i ngā tau ko taha ake, ko tino pupū ake mai tēnei aroha ōku ki te reo, me te aha hoki, e mate ana au ki te ako tonu, ki te wero tonu hoki i ahau.

The decision to send my siblings and me to Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Whānau Tahi, a Māori immersion school in Ō Tautahi, was born out of my dad’s desire for us to be proficient in te reo Māori. That’s where my journey formally began. Regrettably, I didn’t really apply myself at Te Whānau Tahi when it came to te reo; that’s not to say though that I was so bad that I was constantly scolded for speaking English. I didn’t have the understanding that I do now to fully realise the potential I had if I continued to pursue te reo Māori. At the time I wasn’t too bothered, but in recent years I have really developed a love for it, and now I want to keep learning and pushing myself.

I muri i Te Whānau Tahi, ko hūnuku ki tētahi kura tuarua auraki. Kāore au i rongo i te arohanui ki tō tātou reo Māori. I tētahi rā, he kōrero Māori nōku ki te pouako i panaia au i te akomanga. Ahakoa te kaikiri a ētahi tāngata, i noho tonu au ki korā. Ka taha ake ngā tau e rua, ko oti katoa i ahau ngā mahi Te Reo Māori i taea ai e au, ā, i uaki rātou kia koke tonu me aku mahi ia wiki ki te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha. Nā reira i tīmata i taku tohu Paetae ki Te Reo Māori, me ngā Tikanga o Māori, o Iwi Taketake hoki. He mea mīharo tērā ki ahau, te koke tonu ki aku mahi i te kura tuarua, me te toro hoki ia wiki ki te whare wānanga, ākona tonutia ai te reo me ngā tikanga. Ko 14 tau noa taku kaumātuatanga i taua wā, nā reira, e kore rawa au e ō ki te whakaaro horapa o te tauira whare wānanga, engari he ngāwari noa te whakahoa ki ngā tāngata anō ki ngā akoranga. He iti iho te utu ki ahau, ka mutu, ka whakahoki te kura i ngā pūtea 50% pēnā eke atu ai taku paetae i te A-, nā reira he hua pai ērā.

After Te Whānau Tahi I moved to a mainstream high school. I did not experience the love for our reo Māori there though. One time I was kicked out of class for answering the teacher in Māori when he called my name on the roll. In spite of the racism shown by some there, I remained at the school. Within two years I had completed all that I could with Te Reo Māori at high school and they suggested that I continue on with my studies a few times a week at the University of Canterbury. So I began my Bachelor’s degree in Te Reo Māori, and Māori and Indigenous Studies. That was so exciting for me. I was able to continue my studies at high school while visiting uni each week to keep learning te reo Māori and tikanga. I was only 14 years old at the time, so I definitely did not fit the stereotype of a university student, but I got along really well with everyone in my class. I got subsidised fees, and they would refund up to 50% if I got an A- grade or higher, so it was well worthwhile.

Ka oti te kura i a au, ka panuku pai ki te whare wānanga kia whakaoti i taku tohu Paetahi. I puta taku ihu i te tau 2014, kātahi i mahi i tētahi atu tohu Paetahi, he tohu Puoro. Kāore au i paku mōhio ki tōku ara haere ake nā, nā reira, i ruku au ki te mahi a te pouako. I whai i taku tohu, kātahi ka tīmata ki te whakaako i Te Reo Māori i te tau 2018. I tīmata au ki te whakaako ki tētahi kura auraki; nā wai i reka, ka kawa. Kāore au i paku rongo i te arohanui ki te reo i taua wā. He pihinga tonu te kaupapa reo ki korā, ka mutu, kāore i ahau te tautoko i matea e au e puāwai pai ki korā. Me he pouako Māori koe ki tētahi kura auraki, he rite tonu te whiu mai i ngā mahinga Māori ki a koe ahakoa pea ehara koe i te tangata tika. Hei tauira, e matea pea ana tētahi pouako Kapa Haka e te kura, ā, ka tonoa koe i tōu mōhio ki te kōrero Māori. I te mutunga o te rā, e kore te kaupapa e ora i tērā. I murare haere, kātahi i tau tēnei manu hei pouako ki Te Whānau Tahi – ki tōku kōhanga, ki tōku kāinga. He pouako puoro ahau ki korā.

I finished school, and continued at uni, completing my degree. I graduated in 2014 and completed another Bachelor’s degree, this time in Music. I had no idea what my career path would be, so I just went into teaching. I became qualified and began teaching Te Reo Māori in 2018. I got a job at a mainstream school but it did not really sit right with me. It seemed to me that the school’s passion for Māori was a bit of a facade, and quite superficial. The programme was really in its infancy and I just didn’t have the support I needed in order to really prosper there. As a Māori teacher in a mainstream school, one often has many other Māori tasks given to oneself when one may not actually be the most appropriate person for that job. For example, a school may need a tutor for Kapa Haka, and they suggest you because you can speak Māori. Unfortunately, that doesn’t really work. I moved to another school, taught for a bit there, and finally settled at Te Whānau Tahi – my home – as a Music teacher.

Rawa au i mōhio ki taku kōingo kia noho ki tētahi wāhi e kaingākau ana, e whakanui ana hoki i te reo Māori. Koia tērā e aroha nei au ki Te Whānau Tahi; e oti i ahau te kōrero Māori rangi mai, rangi atu, me te aha hoki, e mārama ana ngā tāngata ki ahau. Kāore au e whakaako i ngā rerenga ngāwari pēnei nā, “kei raro te ngeru i te tēpu,” pēnei raini, “me mau kamupūtu au nā te ua,” e oti i ahau te kōrerorero ki ngā kaimahi rātou ko ngā tauira, me te whakawhanake hoki i tōku ake reo. He whai i Te Aho Matua e kaingākau nei hoki au ki Te Whānau Tahi. Koia ērā ko ngā mātāpono e ārahi ana i ngā Kura Kaupapa Māori, koia ērā hoki e ahurei ai ngā kura kaupapa i ngā kura auraki. E ariari ana tā mātou kōrero Māori i te kura, engari ehara tēra i te rerenga kētanga anahe o te kura kaupapa me te kura auraki. E whāia ana ngā mātāpono o Te Aho Matua e mātou, me te aha hoki, e ārahi ana ēnei i ngā kaimahi rātou ko ngā tauira ki te oranga ngākaupai, e poipoi ana hoki i tētahi ao e manaaki ana, e whakarangatira ana hoki i ngā ahurea me ngā reo katoa mā te tirohanga Māori.

I realise now that I had been longing for a place where my love of the Māori language would be supported and celebrated. One of the main reasons I love being at Te Whānau Tahi is that I am now back in a space where I can speak Māori all day, and people actually understand me. I no longer need to teach basic Māori like “the cat is under the table” or “I should wear gumboots because it’s raining,” I can actually have proper developed conversations with staff and students and grow my reo. The other reason I love being at Te Whānau Tahi is Te Aho Matua, the principles that guide Kura Kaupapa Māori, and distinguish them from mainstream schools. Of course, we speak Māori at school, but that isn’t the only difference between us and a mainstream school. We follow the principles and values of Te Aho Matua, and these help guide students and staff towards a more positive life, and foster a kind and caring environment towards all cultures and languages through a Māori lens.

I ahau e murare haere ana ki kura kē, i te rapu ara au e ora pai ai tōku reo, e māori ai hoki te reo Māori ki Aotearoa. I tono au ki tētahi pakihi whakawhiti reo, ka mutu i whakaae rātou kia noho au ki ō rātou rekereke hei kaiwhakamāori. I te tīmatanga, he iti noa ngā momo mahi ka homai ki ahau, heoti he nako nōku kia whanake i tōku ake reo, me āku mahi ki korā, i ū pai au ki ngā mahi. I tere taku whakaoti whakamāoritanga, i kounga hoki taku mahi, e ai ki a rātou. Nā tēnā, i eke au i roto i āku mahi, ka tīmata ki te whai kirimana motuhake me te mahi tahi ki ō ngā tino umanga taha ki Aotearoa. E poho kūkupa ana au i āku mahi whakamāori, ānō nei ko “rongonui ā-tūmataiti” nā te hora o aku mahi, engari nā te tokoiti hoki e mōhio ana nāku ērā mahi. E mīharo tonu ana au i te whakaaro atu ki aku mahi whakamāori mā te Kāwanatanga o Aotearoa, me te aha hoki, e kitea nei āku mahi whakamāori e ngā kaiwhakahaere o te motu. He maha āku mahi whakamāori i te Pōtitanga Whānui o 2020, ka mutu, ko āku tino ko ngā mātārere mō te Tarutaru me te Kōwhiringa Whakamatenga. Kia hoki mai ki tētahi kaupapa e kore nei e pakeke pea ki te taringa, i whakamāori hoki ahau i ētahi kiriata nā Air New Zealand me Les Mills, e toro ai, e korikori tonu ai hoki te tangata hei ngā rerenga ki tāwāhi. Te mutunga kē mai o te ngahau.

While I was finding my feet, going between schools, I was trying to find a way to help normalise te reo Māori in New Zealand. I applied to a New Zealand Translation Center, and they offered me a position there as a translator. When I first started off, they would send me small, seemingly insignificant jobs, but I had a strong desire to make this a worthwhile thing for myself, and gave it all I had regardless. I finished translations quickly, and they liked the quality of work I was producing. As a result, I started taking on bigger and better contracts, working with some major organisations throughout Aotearoa. I am proud of my translation work, and I like to think I’m “anonymously famous” in the sense that a lot of people see my work, but only very few know that it is actually my work. It still feels surreal to think that I am able to translate for the New Zealand Government, and that my translations are used by the people who run our country. I translated a lot for the 2020 General Election, and my favourites were definitely the referenda for Cannabis and End of Life Choice. On a less serious note, I also translated the videos that Air New Zealand made with Les Mills for their international flights so you can stretch in your seat and keep your body moving even in the air. They were a lot of fun to work on.

Nōku i wehe i te whare wānanga, i pōhēhē au ko matatau au ki te reo. Ahakoa i āhua tika tēnā, ko kite ahau i ngā tau ko taha ake nei i taku tino whanake ki taumata kē atu. E mahi tonu ana au hei pouako, heoti ko te mahi whakamāori kē taku pūmanawa i tēnei wā tonu. Ka anga pēhea tōku ara mea ake nei? Wai ka hua, wai ka tohu? Me mihi ahau ki ngā pakihi katoa e whakapeto ngoi ana kia noho māori ai te reo Māori ki ō rātou pakihi. Me kore ake ko koutou! Kāore hoki aku mihi e mimiti ki ērā i whakapono mai ki ahau, ki ērā i tautoko i ahau ahakoa ngā piki me ngā heke. Kāore e ārikarika ngā mihi. He roa tonu te ara, he maha tonu ngā mahi ki mua i te aroaro e puāwai ai tēnei reo o tātou, heoti, ki te koke whakamua tātou, ka whaiwāhi tātou katoa kia nanea i ngā hua o te rākau matomato nei.

When I left university, I considered myself fluent in te reo.  Even though that was accurate, I have seen in recent years huge developments in my Māori language abilities. I still work as a teacher, but translation and Māori consulting is where my passion lies at the moment. Who knows what will happen further down the line? I thank all those organisations who are striving to normalise te reo Māori in their work! Each and every one of them are doing great things! I also must thank those who believed in me through hard times. My thanks are boundless. There is a long path ahead, and a lot of work before us for Māori to prosper, but if we continue moving forward, we will all benefit from the fruits of our labours.

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Taurapa Matiu
He raukura a Taurapa o Te Aho Matua, me te aha hoki e kaingākau ana ki te reo Māori. E nakohia ana kia māori te reo Māori ki te motu whānui. He kaiwhakamāori ia mō ngā tini umanga, ina koa ngā tari kāwanatanga.

Capital celebrates Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori with a collection of personal essays about learning te reo Māori.

Read more “My te reo journey” essays below.

Sherilee’s journey

Sherilee felt confident in her Māoritanga. Until she got to university.

Leo’s journey

The first time Leo got lit up by reo Māori was at a Trinity Roots concert.

Kate’s journey

In her 60s Kate became interested in the language of our indigenous people.

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