Te Wiki o te Reo Maori - Kia Kaha te Reo Maori

The chosen theme for 2019 is again 'Kia Kaha te Reo Māori’. ‘Kia Kaha’ is well understood in New Zealand English with its meaning of ‘be strong’. Likening language to a person as we discuss its health, strength and revitalisation. The theme ‘Kia Kaha te Reo Māori’ therefore means ‘Let’s make the Māori language strong'. We have some FAQ about te reo to start your te wiki o te reo Maori off strong.



Strength for an endangered language comes from its status, people being aware of how to support revitalisation, people acquiring and using it and from the language having the right words and terms to be used well for any purpose.


A national census undertaken in 2013 suggests there were approximately 125,000 speakers of Māori (around 21 % of all Māori and around 3 % of all people living in NZ). However, the survery Te Kupenga undertaken by Statistics NZ in 2013 suggests there were approximately 50,000 (11 %) Māori adults who could speak Māori well or very well. Many of the very fluent speakers of Māori were likely to be over 65 years old.


Every New Zealander can help strengthen te reo.


The goals of Māori Language Week


• Create a positive environment for the use of Māori language.


• Promote Māori language initiatives and events.


• Encourage non-Māori speaking New Zealanders to use reo Māori.


• Encourage speakers of Māori to support others who are just starting out.


• Encourage community, business, government and media organisations to participate.


• Promote resources to make Māori language more accessible.


• Contribute to awareness of the Crown Māori Language Strategy and the Māori and iwi strategy that work together for revitalisation.





FAQ about the Māori Language


Q1. Where is Māori spoken?


A1. Mainly in the North Island of New Zealand, in particular in the far North, Central & Eastern areas of the North Island where sizeable populations of Māori are found. There are a number of speakers of Māori in all the main urban centres of New Zealand. All (adult) Māori speakers can also speak English.


Q2. Were other languages spoken in New Zealand prior to European colonisation?


A2. Before the 1800s Māori was the only language spoken throughout the North Island and South Island of New Zealand. However, another separate, yet closely related language, Moriori, was spoken in the Chatham Islands to the east of New Zealand [though the Chatham Islands are now politically part of New Zealand]. Moriori is now extinct and has not had any native speakers since the 1930s (though the language has been recorded reasonably extensively in written form).


Q3. Is Māori related to any other languages?


A3. Yes. Māori is closely related to the language spoken in the Cook Islands (known as Cook Islands Māori or Rarotongan. Many people use Rarotonga to refer to the dialect spoken on the largest island in the Cook Islands group), Tahitian, and other Polynesian languages spoken in Eastern Polynesia. Linguists agree that Māori is a member of the East Polynesian branch of the Polynesian Language group. These languages are a small group of the large and widespread Austronesian language family.


Q4. How many dialects of Māori are there?


A4. It is difficult to answer this question. Linguists generally state that there are 3 major dialect divisions: Eastern North Island, Western North Island, and South Island Māori (the latter currently has no native speakers). Within these divisions there is also regional variation, and within regions there is tribal variation. The major differences are in pronunciation of words, vocabulary, and idiom. A fluent speaker of Māori has no problem understanding other dialects of Māori. (see Keegan 2017) Older speakers of Māori are more likely to speak Māori identifiable with a particular dialect or region. My observations are that a considerable amount of dialect mixing is occurring amongst younger speakers, especially those living in urban areas.

Q5. Has Māori influenced the English language spoken in New Zealand?


A5. Yes, there are many words in New Zealand English which have been copied from Māori. Some bird and tree terms are only known in English by their Māori names. Basic Māori greetings and important Māori cultural terms are known and used by speakers of New Zealand English. Some of these are given in my list of Māori words used in English.


Q6. Has English influenced the Māori language?


A6. Yes, there are hundreds words in Māori which derive from English. Many believe that the Māori currently being used by younger speakers often shows considerable influences from English in terms of pronunciation, grammar (especially word order), and vocabulary usage.


Q7. Have any other languages influenced the Māori language?


A7. Not significantly, although there are a few words in modern Māori which derive from languages other than English, e.g., French, Hebrew, Latin, and Tahitian.


Q8. Is Māori difficult to learn?


A8. Basic conversational structures in Māori are not difficult to learn, though, as with all languages, there are aspects of the structure of the language which require more effort to learn as familiarity with the language increases. But Māori does not have the grammatical complexity that we find in some of the languages further afield in the Pacific to which it is related.


Today thousands of people speak Māori as a second language; these are mainly native speakers of English.


For more questions and answers go to: http://www.maorilanguage.info/mao_lang_faq.html