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Māori Language, New Zealand

The Māori culture is integrated into the Kiwi way of life. Currently the culture is going through a renaissance period to restore and revitalise certain aspects, which once faced danger of being lost.

Until recent years, Māori as a living language was under threat. In 1996, only 27 percent of urban Māori could converse in te reo (Māori language), with Māori aged 20-24 the least likely to be able to have conversations in Māori (21 percent). Only 33 percent of rural Māori could converse in te reo, with Māori aged sixty and over the most likely to be able to speak te reo (63 percent).

However, older Māori (kaumatua) are dying out at a rate of around 1300 a year, making the matter of revitalisation of language extremely important. Since 1996, many initiatives have been put in place to save and strengthen the Māori language.

In 1998 just over 40 percent of all Māori children were enrolled in kohanga reo (Māori-speaking pre-school).

The National Maori Language Survey in 1995 was an important step in revitalising the Māori language. The nationwide survey combined the responses of 2441 Māori adults and the findings were used to help develop a Māori language plan and to monitor the health of the language.

Beginning in about 2015, the Māori language underwent a revival as it became increasingly popular, as a common national heritage, even among New Zealanders without Māori roots. Surveys from 2018 indicated that “the Māori language currently enjoys a high status in Māori society and also positive acceptance by the majority of non-Māori New Zealanders”. [Māori language – Wikipedia]

Guide to pronouncing common Māori words:

  • Aotearoa (OW-TEH-AH-ROW-AH) =Land of the Long White Cloud. Maori name given to New Zealand
  • Haere mai (HIGH-RE-MY) =Welcome
  • Hangi (HUNG-EE) =Traditional earth oven
  • Hongi (HONG-EE) =Pressing of the noses (as a greeting)
  • Hui (WHO-EE) =Meeting or gathering of people
  • Iwi (EE-WEE) =Tribe
  • Kai (KY) (as in sky) =Food
  • Kia ora (KEY-AH-OR-RAH) =Hello
  • Manaakitanga (MAH-NAAH-KEY-TAH-NGA) =Caring and sharing
  • Manuhiri (MAH-NU-HIH-REE) =Visitors
  • Marae (MA-RYE) =Meeting house
  • Pounamu (POE-NAH-MOO) =Type of greenstone or jade
  • Poupou (POE-POE) =Carved posts of the meeting house representing ancestors
  • Powhiri (POH-FIRI) =Welcoming ceremony
  • Tangaroa (TAH-NGA-ROW-AH) =God of the sea
  • Tangata whenua (TAH-NGA-TA-FEN-OOWA) =People of the land
  • Te reo Maori (TEY-RAY-OR-MAR-OH-REE) =The Maori language
  • Waka (WOK-AH) =Canoe
  • Waka taua (WOK-AH-TOW-AH) =War canoe
  • Wero (WEH-ROR) =Challenge
  • Whaikorero (FAI-COR-REH-ROH) =Speech making/oratory
  • Whanau (FAR-NO) =Family
  • Whänautanga (FAR-NO-TAH-NGAR) =Kinship ties
  • Wharenui (FAR-REH-NU-EE) =Carved meeting house

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