It’s a familiar feeling for many on their te reo Māori journey and one Tanya Tucker knows well.
“For ages I’d say as little as possible in class and felt really out of my depth,” she says.
“Everyone was really supportive but I worried I wouldn’t know what people were talking about and I felt whakamā because you don’t want to stuff it up.”
The easy option would be to chuck it in - particularly since COVID-19 forced classes online - but Tanya says while learning te reo Māori can be challenging, it’s also hugely satisfying.
“When I started, I had very limited basics that I learned at school in the ‘90s. I came in thinking I was just learning a language, but there is so much tikanga and waiata and karakia. A whole lot of things I was unaware of, and I loved it. It’s totally changed my outlook.”
She is currently studying the Diploma in Te Aupikitanga ki te Reo Kairangi at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa in Kaikohe, after initially studying Te Pūtaketanga o te Reo in 2018 and Te Rōnakitanga ki te Reo Kairangi last year.
Tanya – Ngāti Kahu ki Whangaroa – says the more she learns, the more she appreciates the beauty of te reo Māori.
“I love te reo Māori, te tikanga, te Ao Māori katoa. When you learn whakataukī and kupu whakarite you realise how poetic the language is, how clever our tūpuna were at describing things,” she says.
It has also taught her other skills.
“Apart from learning te reo and about te Ao Māori, through my studies and assignments I have learnt many computer skills, referencing and things like that. I have learnt so much history through researching the assignments, it’s so interesting. It made me look into my history, my whakapapa and to look at who I am and where I come from.”
While Tanya studied te reo at school in the 1990s she eventually dropped it as a subject, something she still regrets.
“I really liked it at school but when it came time to choose subjects to continue on with, I was influenced by many people of the old mindset that you won’t use it, so I dropped it, even though I loved it. Now I think, why did I do that when I loved it?”
However, she’s making up for lost time and tackling the challenge head on.
“It’s enjoyable to learn so much. I’ve felt like pulling out at times but my kaiako and other tauira are so supportive. This year we have some really fluent tauira in my class and they really help you up your game. I need more conversational opportunities but I realise you have to put in the effort yourself.
“It has been a long journey, and there is still far to go, but e pai ana, I enjoy it. Ko te mea nui ki ahau, ko te whanaungatanga ki āku tauira, kaiako hoki, me te kōrero tuku iho.”