Non-Maori speakers essential to survival of te reo

Will Flavell
Will Flavell
The author of a ground-breaking study has highlighted the importance of non-Maori people learning te reo Maori if the language is to be revitalised.

Will Flavell, of West Auckland, recently graduated from the University of Otago with a doctorate in education.

His studies were based on the first doctoral research on the learning experiences of non-Maori secondary school pupils learning re reo Maori.

Te reo Maori was significant for all New Zealanders, he said.

"In order to maintain and grow te reo Maori, both Maori and non-Maori must be involved in the revitalisation and further development of the language."

The secondary pupils he had interviewed recognised that "it is not a matter of being Maori or not; instead, it is the value that we place on te reo Maori".

Dr Flavell is the education manager Maori at Comet Auckland-Te Hononga Akoranga, a not-for-profit Auckland Council-controlled education initiative.

His doctoral thesis focused on the learning experiences and attitudes of non-Maori secondary school pupils learning te reo Maori.

He drew on 10 years’ experience teaching in high schools, including as head of Maori studies at Rutherford College.

The Government and the Maori Language Commission aimed for a million New Zealanders to be able to speak basic te reo Maori by 2040.

However, that goal could be achieved only if more non-Maori were learning the language, he said.

"I took up the challenge of postgraduate research because I am passionate about the revitalisation of te reo Maori and my journey has shown me how all New Zealanders play a valuable role in its normalisation."

"If we set our mind to a goal, we can achieve it."



Non-Maori speakers are not essential to survival of te reo. Maori are.

Interest in te reo, motivation to learn te reo and value of the maori language is inextricably tied to ethnicity or blood links and culture. Very few non maori will value te reo the same way as Maori. This is a biological truth and people can and will only trully value the language of their ethnicity. This is the same for your skin colour, physiological features and so forth.

To expect non Maori to perform the role of guardian in the same manner as Maori is akin to expecting a fish to walk on dry land. This is unrealistic and an unethical way to redistribute tax payer money.

To be fair funding for language learning should be proportionately distributed. No one should be forced to learn another cultures language. This should be a choice. It will be extremely difficult or near nigh impossible for non-Pukapukans to learn my language (Pukapukan) and do justice to it without the blood and cultural links and so govt support for it should only be targeted primarily at Pukapukans and not the general population.

Te reo Maori was significant for all New Zealanders, he said. On what grounds?. Most in NZ have no Maori ancestry or connections. It is of very limited use as an international language. It might be a 'nice to have' and non Maori speaking it might help it's continued existence, but please don't claim it is significant to all.

I am a non māori. I am a seed here in Aotearoa. I will try and sprout out as best I can. Haumi ē, hui ē, tāiki ē. I've heard this statement before, and have just looked it up. It means to progress together! Cool.