Hamilton’s deputy mayor Geoff Taylor at a haka festival event at Hamilton Gardens.
A desire as a political leader to respect and support te reo is helping fuel Geoff Taylor’s drive to learn more of the language.
The Hamilton deputy mayor says he’s due to start the Papa Reo – NZ Certificate in Te Reo Level 1 home-based learning course at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa next month.
“I realised I needed and wanted to get a much better handle on the Māori language as soon as I was appointed deputy mayor.
“At the inauguration I spoke but realised how limited I was in te reo and how as a result I was failing to connect with Māori in the audience. I also felt I was insulting them through my lack of effort. I decided then and there really to make a real effort. I realised I wouldn’t be able to do my job properly if I didn’t.”
Geoff says he enrolled at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa over last summer but unfortunately the course was so popular he couldn’t actually start till next month.
In the meantime, he has been learning online through a self-paced course he describes as very good.
“It was exciting as I started to string short phrases together. That’s given me a start in learning the language but I am really looking forward to throwing myself into the Wānanga’s course.”
He says that as he went along with the online course over the summer he began to feel better about himself as a person and as a New Zealander.
“I have to say I wondered why I hadn’t made the effort years ago. Better late than never I guess.”
Geoff says he wants to be in a position where he can speak te reo at events and offer more than just his basic pepeha.
“Ultimately I’d like to get to a stage where I’m able to speak te reo fluently. A lot of work ahead of me but you have to have a goal. I really want to feel comfortable in formal situations on marae, etc.
“I want to really do justice to the language and culture, and do more than just the basic requirements. I think it is a truly beautiful language.”
There’s no doubt, he says, that te reo needs to have a stronger role in our society.
“And you already get the feeling that bit by bit it’s being incorporated into our [mainstream New Zealand] spoken language with words like tamariki, awa, mahi, etc, popping up frequently. It’s quite exciting really and just emphasises our kiwi-ness to me.
“There’s absolutely no doubt that local body leaders have a responsibility to carry the torch in terms of promoting te reo. We have an important role to play and I think that only dawned on me when I was lucky enough to be appointed deputy mayor.”