For Arran Pene, his developing proficiency in te reo Māori is, in part, about paying tribute to his tīpuna.
“I get satisfaction out of honouring my tīpuna by speaking te reo,” says the 52-year-old Hamilton-born and based former All Black.
Arran (Ngāti Wairere), who’s recently graduated with a level 6 diploma in te reo from Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, played in 15 All Blacks tests and eight games for the New Zealand Māori side.
His interest in te reo was sparked from an early age growing up around Hukanui and Tauhei marae, and through the classroom and kapa haka at Fairfield College in Hamilton.
As he entered his forties, his uncles and aunties started encouraging him to learn more te reo. “I prefer the tea towel but maybe there will be a need for support of the marae in other areas.”
Also, his wife Sonia and he wanted to be examples for their four children.
Another factor in his recent push to upskill at te reo was a “big group” of like-minded people of similar age who wanted to become more proficient. He personally wanted to be able to use te reo to open and close hui, and to tautoko whānau and friends at tangi.
“Our group understand that you need to help out and we are very fortunate to have some proficient speakers for us to grow and learn with.”
Arran started with the Te Ara Reo Māori Level 2 course at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa four years ago and this year graduated from the 2018 Diploma in Te Aupikitanga ki te Reo Kairangi Level 6 programme.
The practical benefits for him of the Te Wānanga of Aotearoa courses?
“It’s enabled me to be more capable, more understanding, with speaking te reo Māori and tikanga Māori, and in a formal setting. It’s great that you know, if you have to in a formal setting, how to step up and respect the rituals of the marae.”
At a cultural and spiritual level this ability “does put your wairua at ease”.
“The teachings I’ve got from the Wānanga make me feel safe in settings where I need to speak te reo Māori. I have been very lucky to have great tutors at the Wānanga, great teachers and great people.”
Arran, an Otago University graduate who now owns and manages a hospitality business in Hamilton, is planning to further develop his conversational te reo skills this year and continue to build his capacity to kōrero Māori. He suspects his children will also be keen to join that journey at some stage.
No doubt his family, marae, community and tīpuna will appreciate the big effort he’s put in so far and the ongoing effort to come.