Could you hold a conversation solely in te reo Māori for an hour ?
How about speaking only in Māori for a whole day, ordering your takeout burger in the native tongue or engaging in everyday pleasantries with non reo speakers?
If you answered “no” you may want to spare a thought for Te Wānanga o Aotearoa kaimahi who are speaking only in Māori - for an entire month.
But if you answered “yes”, you may want to join them.
Te Wānanga o Aotearoa Māori language expert Paraone Gloyne is extending an invitation to anyone who wants to join him on a month-long reo challenge.
While the challenge has been picked up by a number of Māori speakers throughout Aotearoa, it has also been accepted by three reo speakers living in London.
Most are highly competent speakers of te reo Māori but it will be a testing month with all of their conversations, emails, texts, Facebook posts, takeaway orders, chats with shop owners - basically any engagement – conducted solely in Māori.
The wero, which began last week, is part of Paraone’s commitment to te reo Māori and the Reo Ora strategy within Te Wānanga o Aotearoa.
The Reo Ora strategy aims to see half of all wānanga kaimahi proficient in te reo Māori by 2030.
The Poureo Matua for the Wānanga, Paraone communicates mainly in Māori to other kaimahi at work and whānau while at home.
But he said there was still a level of apprehension and intimidation towards using te reo Māori.
“There is a bit of apprehension out there about how people are going to react.”
“It’s interesting when people realise I’m only going to speak Māori with them most of the responses have been positive, most people have come up and said “cool, good on you”.
Paraone first completed the month-long reo anake programme last year.
He says the difficulty he has in full immersion contexts is getting into the correct mindset and freeing himself of everyday bilingual habits.
“The first week I think is the hardest because you are so used to speaking English, you let the odd “damn” or whatever come out.”
“Last year we took one of our old hoa mahi to Tauranga on the first day of my reo challenge. We had our poroporoaki and all their staff lined up and were saying their good byes.”
“We got to the middle of the line and their CEO goes “it was very nice to meet you” and I said “you too”.”
Paraone says the reo-only policy can only be broken in emergencies or “a situation where a life is in danger”.
Also undertaking the challenge is Te Wānanga o Aotearoa Kaiwhakamāori, Hariru Roa.
Hariru said one of the difficulties she faces is conversing with her husband, who is not a fluent Māori speaker.
She’s had to ask her tamariki, all of whom are bilingual kura kaupapa tauira, to act as a go between.
When taking her ill child to see a doctor last week, she was in a situation where one of her children had to translate what she was saying to the doctor.
Both Paraone and Hariru say there are definite flow-on effects from the reo anake month with many people, regardless of their Māori ability, trying to engage with them in the reo the most obvious one.
The full immersion month also forces them to broaden their lexicon in areas they normally wouldn’t be thinking about.
“Sometimes I will look at labels in the supermarket and think “geez, what is the Māori word for that ?”,” says Paraone.
Paraone’s advice for those considering a month of full immersion Māori
Be courageous: “At the end of the day the only thing that is holding us back is our attitude or our insecurities.”
Have fun: “It’s about having fun. I mean I had fun that month.”
Try to surround yourself with other language speakers:
“You need to have that language community around you, that’s more than one person so as long as you have someone to speak with. While I enjoyed speaking Māori in a predominantly English speaking society I enjoy speaking Māori.”
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