What Dr. Meakins did, was called “folk linguistics,” which is a research to study what an average person knows about linguistic phenomena and languages. This type of research is more focused on knowing what an average person is exposed to in terms of linguistic topics, what type of topics interest them and how they use their knowledge to explain the world that exists around them, and to show their attitudes towards languages. The subject for her folk linguistics research was New Zealand. She wanted to know the Kiwi youths’ thoughts about the revival of the Māori language and its place in New Zealand’s future.
She found out that Kiwi youths in New Zealand and in Europe both accept their Indigenous language, Māori. In New Zealand’s culture, identity and society, the Indigenous language holds a treasured and very special place. It is constitutionally protected and is an official language in New Zealand. Māori is taught in schools around the country and signs on city streets are bilingual. They even have a Māori version of their national anthem. Today’s New Zealand English is interspersed with some Māori words, so you are likely to hear “haere mai” or welcome and “kia ora,” which means hello.
This is such a welcome sign, considering that as of the 2013 census, there were only 148,395 speakers of Māori, which represent about 3.73 percent of the population. English on the other hand is spoken by 96.14 percent of the population, or about 3,819,969 people.
Māori became an official language in New Zealand only in 1987. While still on the endangered list, New Zealanders are fighting to save the language.
According to Dr. Meakins survey about 72 percent of the New Zealanders in Europe and 83 percent of youths in New Zealand want the language to be saved because it is part of their identity. They also expressed their wish to have the language made compulsory in all schools in New Zealand or have it taught to a higher proficiency and more extensively than what is going on right now.
The youths in Europe believed that they should be speaking the language as well. They even called on the Prime Minister of New Zealand to start using the language as a matter of policy, pointing out that Māori is not only to be used at home. They said that they are looking forward to a bilingual country where they can retain the economic and international benefits of speaking English while the Māori language will be a second language that will reflect New Zealand’s shared history, culture and identity.