By Todd Muller
At a conference in 1992 I met Dyfrig Ellis, a passionate Welshman and teacher, who has become a dear friend over the years. He’s a school teacher in an all Welsh-speaking school.
Dyfrig is a passionate advocate for the culture and language of the Welsh. And through the years he’s taught me of the great truism that only a culture with its language spoken survives. Somewhat embarrassingly he understood more of our local Maori leaders’ struggle to hold on to and grow Te Reo than I did. He used to quote Welsh studies on the approach that we take here in New Zealand and spoke about how the Welsh were emulating us in the valleys.
Next week is Maori Language Week, it should be a time to reinforce our collective efforts for the language to be taught more widely and thereby be more deeply understood. It is very moving to see how our young are comfortably embracing te reo Maori and the broader culture. The way that children confidently use te reo is a far cry from the diffident echoing of teachers counting to 10 and trying to remember colours that dominated my younger years.
Last week I visited Mount Maunganui Intermediate with the Prime Minister and we were welcomed by the most stunning young ambassadors for New Zealand; Malakhai Saddler, Holly Sheaf, Max Haswell, Olivia Carr Minoit and Jordan Toy. They welcomed us in Maori, the words flowing off their young tongues with an ease that contrasts to my still-challenged pronunciation.
This is the future of this country. Confident in its skin, in its diversity and in its capacity to take our uniqueness to the world. Embrace next week, for those of you who like me still struggle with the language. I urge you to try a saying, try pronouncing our local names correctly, or maybe it might simply be accepting hearing TV and radio greet you with Maori like they do every year at this time.
Ko taku reo taku ohooho, ko taku reo taku mapihi mauria. My language is my awakening, my language is the window to my soul.