I have always loved languages - right from the world of ballet, which I studied for nine years, where everything was in French - but languages haven’t always loved me. For nearly forty years the extent of my Te Reo Māori was Kia ora or counting to ten.
Encouraged and inspired by colleagues I decided to try to increase my understanding and use of Te Reo Māori. In my early 20s I trained myself to like olives and whiskey, I felt I was missing out - I was. I feel the same about Te Reo Māori and have begun to learn.
1) A connection with your children
Recently I received my very first email from my tama mātua (eldest son).
Kia ora e Māma
Tēnā rawa atu koe for your help with my speech.
I loved it - not only was it an unprompted thank you - te reo Māori learning is another connection I have with my children and my tama (son) knows how much I enjoy learning with them. About 3 or 4 mornings a week my sons and I watch an episode of Tōku Reo together. We usually put it on when they are making their lunches. Please make sure that when you are picturing this scene you do not imagine perfection - this morning a pair of shoes could not be found and a warm school top hadn’t made it home. We also don’t always manage to watch every weekday morning (that’s the aim) but we watch at least 3 times a week.
2) Growth mindset/walking the talk
My children are under a weird delusion that I am good at a lot of things. I tried to explain I was ‘good’ because I was old and had done them/practiced HUNDREDS of times. I am constantly asking my children to ‘give it a go’ and try things they are uncomfortable with so I decided to show them me doing something I was not only uncomfortable with but the worst in the family. My children’s Te Reo pronunciation is pretty good as is my husband’s who is an actor and also did 2 - 3 hours a week of discussing Tikanga at Toi Whakaari for two years.
My children hear my husband correcting my pronunciation most times I speak - but they also see me not giving up.
Growth mindset - I find this hard and I will not give up. I have not mastered it yet but I am making progress.
3) Your children as teachers or working together to learn
I love that my tamariki can teach me new kupu (words) and also correct me on protocols and discuss waiata and kapa haka performances.
‘Mum, we’re staying in the wharenui not the marae...the marae is all of it.’
‘Just singing one of the waiata we learnt this week.’
4) Encourages learning/extends on what they learn at school
I have two sons and there is a lot of talk of penises and farts; apparently this is normal. I initiated a new rule that you could talk about these topics - as long as you did it in Te Reo. Because of this my sons discovered there are three types of fart. They also like to make ‘jokes’ using their put together knowledge. One of my tama’s favourite activities is looking up words on the maoridictionary.co.nz
My children also comment on what they have learned at school either at kapa haka or new waiata or kupu (words). All of us are sharing our knowledge more with each other. The other morning we were listening to the native speakers on Tōku Reo and my tama pointed out someone had said E pai ana (you’re welcome) and it wasn’t listed on the words and phrases we were meant to be looking out for - it was a phrase we had learned outside of this.
5) Children listen
Friends of mine had to go into town for an appointment and asked me to look after their tamariki and take them to school with mine. They happily played with Lego until it was time to go and then - all five - happily kept on playing with Lego.
‘Could you please stand up, put on your bags and let’s go’ I said - three times…
‘E tū’ I said and all five children shot up like Jack in the boxes.
I was relaying this story to two Dads at the sideline of Saturday sport as getting children to listen is right up there with the top two of frustrations. They seemed amazed but impressed but then said ‘But we don’t know any.’
‘But your children do - just learn stand up, listen and also look and you’ve got a lot of options.’
As an admirer of Celia Lashlie who encourages mothers of sons to laugh more and talk less (I’m great at the laughing part - got that down); I love the directness of Te Reo Māori. You can add kind words e.g. e te tau (my darling) but it is much less waffly than English and more likely to get a response. Plus it helps to extend their learning from school.
As well as commands my tama and I use Te Reo Māori for objects - such as Mr 8’s papa reti (skateboard) and for expressing our feelings.
Some days I feel like I have made no progress at all but then other days I remind myself that I can now thank you in Te Reo Māori; my pronunciation is slowly improving and my kupu (words) are increasing. Best of all Te Reo Māori has enriched the connection between my sons and I in our pākeha family and the country which we live.