Opinion: Why does the Māori language struggle continue?

The Māori of New Zealand sparked the language revitalization movement around the world when they implemented a community-based education program to teach children to speak te reo or “the language” as Māori (mri) is often called.

The most well known part of their revitalization movement is the language nest, an early education component such as for kindergarten known as kōhanga reo (pūnana leo in Hawaiian). Immersion schools are known as kura kaupapa.

According to “Fight to save national taonga,” however, despite nearly three decades and hundreds of millions of dollars in investment, the language has not taken full root. While some can speak the language and even Pākehā (non-Māori New Zealanders) have adopted words for everyday use, the language has failed to rise to a level of common use.

The author writes, “What Maori lacks, and what most minority languages lack, is this life-sustaining linguistic community, the sea of language in which speakers can happily swim at all times.”

The author notes that there is a similar situation in Wales, and it was only the need for a unifying language by Jews coming from many different countries the resulted in the success of Hebrew revitalization.

The opinion article was written in response to a Māori/English bilingual report titled “Te Reo Maurioraissued by Te Paepae Motuhake to Te Puni Kōkiri (Ministry of Māori Development).

The recommendations of the report include:

  • Working toward a goal of 80% of Māori speaking Māori in the home by 2050
  • Funding for family- and community-oriented programs
  • Establishing Iwi Wānanga (tribal schools)
  • Establishing a position for a Māori-speaking minister
These items were selected from pages 45 and 49 of the report.

3 Responses to “Opinion: Why does the Māori language struggle continue?”

  1. Alexander Dietz Says:

    Yes, that is a true point. Every speech community has the right to have areas with majorial settings. Therefore we need areas of normalization as the Catalans call it. These have not to be vast areas. Only in majorial settings languages can fully develope. This will strengthen the diaspora, too.

    • wakablogger Says:

      The “area of normalization” sounds like an interesting concept. I look forward to seeing what solution the Māori develop as they are the ones who developed the language nest.

      • sione Says:

        Maori make up a significant population – even a majority – of some rural NZ towns in the North Island. Perhaps a few such areas can be targeted for normalization eg the Wairoa District.

        The analogy is – language nests are like breeding endangered species in captivity. But it’s kind of useless if there is no `wild’ to release them into. The habitat must be created.

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