Everyday use of Maori encouraged

Dr Karyn Paringatai
Dr Karyn Paringatai
Maori should be part of everyday conversation, an award-winning academic says.

''It takes only one generation to lose a language but three to get it back again,'' Dr Karyn Paringatai said.

This Monday marked the start of Whakanuia Te Wiki o te Reo Maori 2014, or Celebrate Maori Language Week 2014.

This year's theme was Te Kupu o te Wiki or The Word of the Week, which encourages people to learn a new Maori word each week for 50 weeks.

Dr Paringatai said a week just wasn't ''cutting it'' for those who taught te reo, and welcomed the move to encourage learning the language over the whole year.

''It is during the week, then we forget about it ... but consciousness needs to be raised every single day.''

And she should know.

Earlier this month, the lecturer at the University of Otago's Te Tumu School of Maori, Pacific and Indigenous Studies won the Prime Minister's Supreme Award for Tertiary Teaching Excellence.

Her work included the promotion of te reo.

''Language is everything''.

She said people should never be scared to give Maori language a go, and ''if in doubt, ask''.

''All learners of languages make mistakes.

''Giving it a try is better than not giving it a go at all,'' Dr Paringatai said, as she urged people to use everyday Maori greetings.

She rejected any reports the language was dying as ''there are too many staunch advocates of the Maori language to allow that to ever happen''.

''For a long time we have been in that dying phase and that is purely because educational policies have enabled that to happen.''

More Maori words were entering the New Zealand-English lexicon.

There were words such as kiwi, totara, weka, which had no English translation, and words such as aroha ''which not only means love but also means compassion, and respect for other people,'' she said.

However, there were also local Maori place names which had been pronounced incorrectly for too long - places such as Waikouaiti, Otakou, Wakari and Opoho, she said.

hamish.mcneilly@odt.co.nz

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