A major new te reo Māori strategy is hoping to strengthen the use of the Māori language in everyday life.
Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi will unveil its five-year strategy Ngā Parirau o te reo Māori in Whakatāne on September 12.
The strategy has been developed over two years with input from strategic partners, te reo Māori experts and iwi and it describes the Māori language aspirations of the indigenous tertiary institution while also focusing on fresh approaches over the next five years.
The strategy will set in motion a series of initiatives including a bilingual community focus and a live-in immersion programme.
The launch of the strategy follows on from an announcement earlier this year that Awanuiārangi is leading the largest study ever of the Māori language – an analysis of data extracted from the internationally recognised longitudinal study Growing Up In New Zealand.
Professor Te Kani Kingi, executive director of research and innovation at Awanuiārangi, says the strategy identifies four high-level goals: use of te reo Māori within the institution; enhanced learning opportunities; increased research; and encouraging te reo Māori use in the wider community.
“Attached to each of these priorities is a range of initiatives to strengthen Māori language use and accelerate revitalisation both within the institution and in the wider community,” says Te Kani.
“We want to ensure that the strategy is able to impact beyond the walls of this institution. Key to this is creating an environment where te reo Māori is used naturally in everyday community life, such as at the supermarket or local sports clubs. We will extend the reach of te reo into our communities to create real language-use opportunities for learners, whether Māori or non-Māori.
“The focus is on the practical. It’s not simply about seeing macrons on street signs, but more about exploring innovative ways of promoting te reo Māori use, such as being able to buy your groceries or order lunch or a coffee in te reo Māori.”
Te Kani says the region has access to a te reo Māori resource enjoyed by few other places, and it would perhaps be easier in the Eastern Bay of Plenty than anywhere else in the country for learners to immerse themselves in te reo Māori.
“The Eastern Bay is fortunate in that the area has high numbers of native speakers within the community, and inland areas like Rūātoki and Ruatāhuna where Māori is legitimately the first language.
“So we are looking to build relationships in the same way as places that have declared themselves bilingual. We can do this really well in a place like Whakatāne because of our access to native speakers in the community.”
This was a critical point of difference for language learners, whether beginners or heading toward fluency.
He says there has been a positive response from the Eastern Bay community, including regional and district councils, commerce and industry.
“Part of the strategy will be to ensure that people who want to learn te reo Māori have the best opportunity to do so. If we do this well and we make inroads into developing a bilingual community, there will be multiple outcomes, opportunities and benefits that go beyond the reo but that highlight the value of the language.”
The strategy is the basis for 12 specific initiatives, including the pilot of a groundbreaking full-time residential immersion programme.
“This is an exciting initiative aimed at providing an accelerated Māori language programme and a comprehensive immersion experience that we expect in six months will transform a beginner into a reasonably confident speaker. They will do this by living in a residential facility where only te reo Māori is spoken, where there is a live-in tutor, and where using te reo Māori every day in the wider community will be facilitated – for example, when students go shopping or to community events.
“We think there are so many people who want to learn but just don’t have the time on top of their day-to-day obligations to effectively do so. On this programme the student commits the time, and we provide an opportunity that is as wrap-around as possible, allowing students to live, breathe, dream, sleep, eat and engage 24 hours a day in te reo Māori.”
Ngā Parirau o te Reo Māori will be launched at the Whakatāne campus of Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi on September 12, from 9am-12.30pm.