Ellen Hall started learning te reo Māori to support her family but has found she is now on her own journey of self-discovery.
“This is my third year of study. I initially came to support my husband - he’s Māori - but he works shift work so it’s been too hard for him to keep going at this stage,” she says.
“But it’s a real community and you become very much a part of it and feel welcome. I’ve got two kids so it’s really important to both of us that they can learn te reo. That’s kind of what drew me and then it becomes part of your own journey. You’re doing it for them but it becomes about yourself too.
“I’m Pākehā but it’s important for me to learn the language for me,” she says.
“And it’s also the privilege of learning it because it is such a beautiful language. I think no matter what your ethnicity, when you go through the journey of learning te reo you learn about te Ao Māori and you learn about yourself.”
“I grew up in Egmont Village and it just wasn’t part of life, it wasn’t something I was familiar with,” she says.
“I think part of the journey has been learning what my place is in learning te reo Māori and I think there is a place for Pākehā to learn te reo Māori and being able to awhi and tautoko to tangata whenua.
I think it can only be a good thing, to be supportive and be included in that journey.”
She says learning te reo has changed the way she views the world.
“It’s very humbling to learn this language and I feel more compassionate, I guess. You’ve got to be compassionate to yourself when you learn something new and when it’s hard. But the support and awhi you get from your other tauira and your kaiako and just how much they’ve embraced me makes me feel really part of it.”
That feeling of whanaungatanga is an important part of learning at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa and Ellen says it’s made her language journey much easier.
“You’re always apprehensive about the unknown, like you don’t know anyone, but I’ve only ever been welcomed and when I come here, sometimes it’s such a mish. You’ve got two kids and you’re trying to get them everywhere but then you come here and when we do karakia and waiata, it’s such a special time, I love it,” she says.
“You come to this place and when you come in here, that’s the kaupapa and the people here are so supportive.”
That support applies to all students and Ellen says anyone contemplating learning te reo should go for it.
“I think its building momentum and in five years’ time hopefully there are more options for people to learn te reo, but just be open to learning and prepared to be humbled. Just have faith and keep coming and keep learning. I’m pushing myself to keep going so it’s haere tonu, haere tonu.”