According to Ethnologue’s latest data, Māori is a threatened language, with about 148,000 speakers in New Zealand. Based on the 1995 Māori Language Commission data, there are 100,000 people who understand it but do not speak the language.
However, the Kiwis felt that they should revive the language and made several efforts to revitalize it, including teaching the native language in the lower grades. And with the current celebration of the Māori Language Week, efforts are made by different sectors to encourage more people to speak te reo Māori, which translates to “the Māori language.”
In a Wellington Football Club, participants of the under-6 rugby team only use te reo Māori during matches as well as training. This is part of the plan to extend the language abilities of the children, according to Joseph Tawhara, the rugby coach and primary school teacher in Strathmore. It allows the children to learn that it is all right to speak Māori outside of their school or home. All of the children in the team know Māori and there are no problems when they use the language for their conversations. Using only Māori at the rugby club gives the children the freedom to use their language without any fear. The parents’ response to the program was very positive. At the same time, spectators and teams from other clubs are surprised at what the children are achieving aside from being better at rugby.
The rugby club handles 20 children between the ages of two and six and they are divided into two teams, and all of them also receive training in Māori. Coach Tawhara added that Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, martial arts and wrestling (whatoto) are other sports that are being taught using the native language.
Meanwhile, a lawyer and Māori language learner, Quentin Hix, said that adults should forget their shyness in using the language, because this will benefit the younger generation. He said that he himself had to overcome his fear to try learning and speaking the language that he only heard from his grandparents. He signed up for Māori language lessons six years ago. Although he believes that he might not get fluent in the language despite taking lessons, attending various events where more opportunities to speak the language also provides his sons with a good foundation to embrace language learning.
Literally, kapa haka means to form a line (kappa) and dance (haka), and this is what a groups of future teachers from the University of Otago’s College of Education did for their language week celebration. The performance, ala flash mob, was led by Pauline Smith. They performed several traditional Māori songs to the delight of the crowd gathered at Invercargill. As future teachers, it is a requirement for them to learn Māori as part of their Bachelor of Education curriculum.