Making room for the reo

“As life got harder and more things started cropping up, it was the reo that kept being put on the back burner — something I swore I wouldn’t do.” — Siena Yates on life after full-immersion reo learning.

Learning te reo as an adult: Tips for success

“There is a common factor that I see about those who are very quick adult learners. They quickly see that there is no point trying to maintain their ego . . . they are able to laugh at themselves, even if they make lots of mistakes.” — Matiu Ratima.

New Zealander of the Year

“My reo journey is one of constant conflict. There are times when the reo just flows out of me, from a place that I believe lies somewhere both within and beyond myself. Then there are times I can’t even string a basic sentence together.” — Tīhema Baker.

Tin canning

The Pikihuia Awards are held every two years to celebrate excellence in Māori writing, both in reo Pākehā and reo Māori. This is the winning reo Māori essay in the non-fiction category, written by Zeb Tamihana Nicklin.

Matua kind. We lucky.

“I had a lot of ideas. But every time I tried to turn them into a sentence in te reo, it amounted to: ‘Māori good. Colonisation bad. Matua smart. Me dumb.’ And also: ‘Me tired. Want nap.’” — Siena Yates.

Forever learning

“When you haven’t been exposed to te ao Māori during your upbringing, you’re making up for lost time as you get older. Listening, learning, and asking questions. For us as a whānau, it’s been a journey — and we know it’s one that will never end.” — Cornell Tukiri.

Modern mōteatea

"Mōteatea were the storehouses of tribal and whānau memory and aspiration, drawn upon to nourish and feed the current and new generations, whilst ensuring they were equipped with the essential knowledge to help them navigate, understand, and explore their world." — Dr Hana O'Regan.

How we save our Pacific languages

“The English were willing to borrow and absorb. When they saw a word that they needed, they took it and made it their own. They even took Polynesian words, like tapu (taboo) and tatau (tattoo).” — Sefita Hao‘uli, Tongan language advocate.

Embrace the whakamā, embrace the mamae

“The reo journey is hard and confronting, and a lot of the time you just have to push through. There’s no skirting around it, especially if you’re Māori and carrying the language trauma that many of us do.” — Siena Yates.

Siena Yates: I finally feel the connection

“For the first time in my life, I feel whole. I feel spiritually well. I feel Māori. And not because I can have a short conversation in the reo, but because I finally feel the connection.” — Siena Yates.

Learning from legends

“The kura reo is specifically designed to challenge you, to push your limits and demolish any concept of a comfort zone. But it’s done in a way that is manageable for you, and with aroha.” — Siena Yates.

The right words to say

“I sometimes find myself on the speakers’ paepae at a formal hui. It’s always a daunting thing. Never to be taken for granted. Always to be reflected on.” — Tainui Stephens.

I’m not plastic — I’m Sāmoan

“It made the racism that came with being Sāmoan in Australia even harder to deal with. On one hand, I didn’t cut it as a real Sāmoan. On the other, I was being stereotyped as dumb and a troublemaker.“ — Lefaoali’i Dion Enari.

Taking care of our kupu

“The word kaitiaki is everywhere in mainstream Aotearoa these days. We often see it used to describe a person who takes cares of others, or to describe someone who takes care of taonga and items of value.” — Tame Malcolm.

A space to breathe

“The full-time, full-immersion learning environment gives us a space where we don’t have to try so hard to be in te ao Māori.” — Siena Yates.

Finding my real voice

“I’d finally joined an environment where I didn’t have to use my Pākehā voice for the first time in my life.” — Siena Yates.

Embrace the taniwha

“I vowed that I wouldn’t allow myself to be shamed by my ignorance again. As I think back to that long ago hui, part of me realises that all I had to do was get over myself.” — Tainui Stephens.

The role of Pākehā is to support

“It’s right that Pākehā should speak Māori, and Pākehā engagement is important to the revitalisation of te reo Māori. . . . But, as a people, we must wait our turn.” — Andrew Robb.

For the love of the language

"I believe that the music will continue to help us heal, so we can celebrate the new cultural narrative of Aotearoa, and be proud of the diverse cultural heritage we all share." — Hinewehi Mohi. 

The shame is gone

“With the help of caring people, through a lens now tinted with aroha, I could embrace the experience of speaking re reo Māori and let it melt my heart.” — Shelley Burne-Field.

Solar power and forgiveness

“In the digital age, it’s naïve to think that we can control the use and growth of te reo — which I believe is a positive thing. The language is flourishing, and I, for one, embrace the change with gay abandon.” — Anton Blank.

My complicated relationship with te reo Māori

“At the age of five, I was already consciously distancing myself from the Māori world. I already knew that to be Māori was to be less than. The same way that my son knows that pink is not an acceptable colour for boys to like.” — Moata Tamaira.

A commitment to younger voices

“I can’t watch the show without cringing at the risque subject matter. Auē. But if they made the show based on my sensibilities, there would be ZERO rangatahi watching it.” — Quinton Hita on the bilingual drama series Ahikāroa.

Calling in on The Godfather

“I sometimes get: ‘Kei te takahi koe i taku mana’ — you’re trampling on my mana. And I think to myself: ‘Well, you're murdering my language. Which one is it going to be? Murdering my language or your mana?’" — Tīmoti Kāretu.

This doesn’t make us less

“We can be Māori and reo-less at the same time. It’s not ideal — especially in the hidden places we never talk about — but we can keep our heads held high. This doesn’t make us less.” — Shelley Burne-Field.

Reclaiming what was lost

“That bridge tragedy in 1947 severed my links to my taha Māori. And only now, in my early 40s, am I reclaiming what was lost.” — Cornell Tukiri.

A whānau affair

“We have almost four generations of te reo Māori speakers in our family. My goal in life before I leave this earth is that those teachings will funnel down to the next three generations after my children.” — Eli Smith.

Reflecting the reo world

“Their decision to be a reo Māori-speaking household instantly cut off friends and whānau who either didn't agree with their decision or found it too challenging to communicate solely in te reo.”

Fish and chips and a serving of te reo

“It really didn't sit well with me that, outside our home, my kids would feel like they’d have to leave that part of themselves at the door and be somebody else. To put on a mask.” — Anton Matthews.

Hinewehi Mohi: Beyond Twickenham

“I was often defined by that moment which was probably, what, a minute? I get it. I understand the importance of it, but it's nice to be able to focus on new and important developments.” — Hinewehi Mohi.

This Pākehā life

“I decided to enrol in an immersion course at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, in South Auckland. My friends were impressed, commending me for my ‘bravery’.” — Alison Jones in her new book 'This Pākehā Life: An Unsettled Memoir'.

My pepeha is my world

“I knew of relations in Auckland, but not of any tribe. All that the old man had told us was he was from ‘up north’. Oh good, that narrows it down then!” — Tainui Stephens.

Language, identity and ‘real’ Sāmoans

"The issue of language and identity haunts all Sāmoans who were raised in New Zealand. I know this because of the recurring conversation on social media around whether you can call yourself a 'real' Sāmoan if you don’t speak the language." — Patrick Thomsen.

Pimp my reo

“I’ve always wanted to be confidently fluent and, at times, I’ve felt like it’s been within my grasp. But then I let it slip away.”

Celebrating our reo warriors

“When the Māori Language Commission first opened its doors in 1987, te reo was viewed by many New Zealanders as something that would divide us. Māori language proponents were often seen as the enemy.”

One reo to rule them all?

“If the best resources on offer for our children aren’t in our dialect, then how the heck does dialect survive?” — Quinton Hita on the unintended consequences of the project to translate titles like 'Harry Potter' into Māori.

Rediscovering our mother tongues

Four plays in four languages staged over four weeks — a theatre experiment which aims to challenge the idea of English as the “mainstream” language and all other languages as exotic.


E-Tangata is an online Sunday magazine specialising in stories that reflect the experiences of Māori and Pasifika in Aotearoa.


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