Learning Te Reo (Part Two)

Judith Holloway continues — ‘I muse over the way my grandfather and his lovely sisters, my great-aunts, all Maori-French, spoke Maori sotto voce when we kids were around, or if they were keeping some sort of gossip quiet from everyone in general.

But not speaking te reo in front of children was in line with the approved policy of those days of making sure mixed-race kids became competent in English at all costs.

This was, unfortunately, translated into the belief that speaking both languages would interfere with that ambition. It wasn’t only the English colonisers who propagated this view, but Maori leaders as well – even, notably,  Sir Apirana Ngata and Sir Peter Buck.

Colonisation by force

Though one can understand their thinking. After all, when the English colonised by force the inhabitants of the countries on their very borders – Ireland, Wales and Scotland – those ancient languages were more or less wiped out, and are, only now, being reinstated with a lot of effort.

I have the impression that in the countries that were colonised by the French – e.g. Tahiti,  Noumea ,Vietnam – the inhabitants used both their own language/s and French with great facility, and still do.

And all over Europe, of course, people commonly speak a multitude of languages in order to communicate with their neighbours.

‘There just aren’t enough teachers’

To make the learning of te reo in every school compulsory overnight would cause big problems. There are just not enough teachers. However, if the Government came up with a multitude of attractive, inter-active devices to push the idea along, that might work wonderfully well. Modern kids are addicted to such things.

This would also be a chance for older native speakers of te reo, who are not professional teachers, to come into schools and offer their help to the kids (on a paid basis, I think and hope) using the technical devices as a mutually-inspiring stimulus.

And then…and then…I, being too old and dotty to make a success of learning all by myself, and therefore failing, could look to my lovely little great-grandchildren to help me out.

They’re already getting immense pleasure out of all their kapa haka experiences. They look wonderful, and happy – swinging and swaying and stamping, flashing eyes of every colour, under haloes of hair of every possible hue and style. It’s so thrilling.

And they’re even learning to stand up in a marae to introduce themselves with a little ‘mihi’ of gracious acknowledgment of their hosts, their own tupuna and history.

Oh, how I wish I’d been taught to do such a thing without self-consciousness!  How lovely this behaviour is to me and to their parents and to all the rest of the whanau mixture of grandparents and great-grandparents!  All of different ethnicities/whakapapa, but all good Kiwis who adore the little darlings.

This is but one aspect of what Aotearoa is all about. Surely….?

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