Editor's Pick

Betrayal

Series 1, Episode 12-13 Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth.../...A Better Place 20 Apr 14 01:19:14

Top Shows

Contact ONE News

Expert warns Maori language could die

Published: 9:11AM Wednesday September 22, 2010 Source: ONE News/Breakfast

A Maori language expert claims the future of te reo is at risk, with his research showing it could be dead in 50 years.

Dr Rangi Matamua says fewer New Zealanders are speaking fluent Maori and the language is in desperate need of a lifeline.

"We are hearing more of the language, but there is misconception due to the development of Maori language through television, pre-schools, radio and the like, that the situation has improved," Dr Matamua told TV ONE's Breakfast.

"In many cases it has, but when we are talking about the language being a spoken language, and the main form of communication in Maori homes, research is telling us that the amount and quality of the language used is actually decreasing."

He said that if the culture and language is to survive, getting more people to speak te reo in the home, naturally, is crucial.

"Language is the cornerstone of culture. For us to hold onto our culture we need to hold onto language as the centrepiece of that culture," he said.

And he said while events like Maori Language Week are useful, they won't save the language in the long run.

"It is not enough. The language we're hearing is one or two words or one or two sentences. It's definitely increased the number of people who can say 'morena' who can say 'te na koutou'... but we're not increasing the number of people who are using the language as the main form of communication within their homes, to each other."

The money invested in kohanga reo and other Maori language programmes, doesn't necessarily equate to greater use of the language outside those environments.

"We really don't know how we make people use the language. We have a lot of children going to Maori language schools but they seem to be coming away from the schools and speaking English.

"Maori Language Week needs to be every week, and Maori language day needs to be every day. Te reo Maori is something we have to use all of the time."

Matamua said of the approximately 6000 languages still remaining in the world, research shows that within 100 years more than 50% will have disappeared.

"We need to ensure Maori language is not in that 50%.
 
"We're not talking about the language in terms of acquiring a language, learning the language or even the status of the language. We're talking about it as a form of communication, and that's in a state of decline."

Matamua said there is something missing in the intergenerational transmission that prevents people from being able to "express all your thoughts and desires in te reo Maori".

And while New Zealand has improved the status of the language and increased its acquisition, the most difficult stage is its use.

"We have a lot of people who have an empathetic view of the language, they know it's important but not enough for them to learn and speak.

"A lot of people say 'I wish I could speak Te Reo Maori' - I wish I could have learnt from my parent or grandparents. We really need to take responsibility for the language that we speak within our homes and to our children." 

Matamua made a similar plea back in 2007 , calling for Maori to "use it or lose it".  

Advertising