For Māori Language Week, Siena Yates (who’s spending this year learning te reo Māori at a full-immersion course) challenged herself to speak only te reo Māori for the entire week. And then she wrote a column about it — in te reo and English.
Kua oti i ahau tāku wero nui taioreore o te tau nei; ko te wero, i whakamātau ahau ki te kōrero Māori ānake mō te katoa o te wiki o te reo Māori.
Mō ngā rā e whitu, i kōrero ahau i te reo Māori i te karaehe, i ngā wā whakatā, i tōku kainga, i runga i te waea, mā ngā karere ā-waea, ā-rorohiko hoki, ki ngā ngēru hoki.
Ināianei, ka haere tonu te wero ki kōnei, nā tōku tuhinga i roto i te reo Māori.
Nō reira, i pēhea te wheako o te wero? Ahakoa he ahua uaua ki te whakapono, ēhara he uaua rawa te wero.
Kei te mōhio ahau he āhua whakahī te kōrero pēnā engari, koinei te take: i mua i te tīmatanga, ki a au nei, he tino uaua te wero. I whakaaro au: “Kaore e tino taea e au te mahi pēnei, engari me whakamātau ahau.” Heoi anō, i te wā i tīmata ahau, kua taka te kapa, ā, i mōhio ahau: kua mahi pēnei ahau — te wero ki te kōrero Māori ia rā — mō te wā roa kē.
Ko te rerekētanga matua, kāore au i hoki atu ki te reo Pākehā. I mua i te wero, he tino tere tōku hokinga ki te reo Pākehā nā te māmātanga o tērā reo ki a au. Engari, i taua wiki, i tū ahau, i hā ahau, ā, i rapu ahau i ngā kupu i hiahiatia e au.
I te tīmatatanga o te wiki o te reo Māori i tuhi ahau i tētahi tuhinga ki Paeāhua, kia whakamōhio atu ki ōku whānau me ōku hoa te tikanga o tāku wero. He aha ai? Mō tōku whāinga.
Ki te puaki au ki ngā tangata maha, ka noho au i te ara. I ngā wā i tino pīrangi au ki te hoki atu ki te reo Pākehā me te ao Pākehā, kāore e taea e au — koirā te whakaaro.
I te whare wānanga, he māmā te mahi. Kei te kōrero Māori ānake mātou i ngā wā katoa. I te āhua uaua ake ki te haere tōnu i ngā wā whakatā, wā tina hoki ēngari, ēhara i te panonitanga nui ki a au.
Ko te wero matua, i te wehenga atu i te whare wānanga. Nā tēnei mahi, i rarahua taku mīhana.
Ko taku tino wawata ki te haere ki ētahi toa kātahi ka kōrero Māori, ēngari i a au i haere, i ngāro āku kupu.
I ētahi wā, ka whakamātau ahau ki te kōrero ēngari korekau i puta mai. I kōrero kē ahau i te momo reo rotarota. Ia wā ka haere ki ētahi wāhi Pākehā hoki, ka ngaro āku kupu.
Ki a au nei, ia wā i kōrero ahau ki ngā tāngata Māori kore reo Māori, he nui tāku aro ki ō rātou whakamā me ō rātou uauatanga, he mōhio nōku ki te mamae ka tau i te wiki o te reo Māori.
I ngā tau o mua, i turupanatia taku mamae nā te kaupapa o te wiki. Ki te kore i a koe te reo Māori i te wiki o te reo Māori, engari ngā kōrero katoa: “Kia kaha te reo Māori”, ka pā te mamae nui. Nō reira, kaore au i pīrangi ki te pēnei ki ētahi atu tangata. He māmā ake ki a au te haere tōnu i te reo Pākehā kia whakamāmā ake te kōrero mā rātou.
Whaihoki, ia wā kōrero ai au ki ngā tangata Pākehā i mōhio ahau kāore rātou i te mārama, i rongo ahau i te āhua pakirara — rite tonu ki ngā wā haere ai ki tāwhiti ā kāore au i te pīrangi kōrero i te reo Pākehā.
Nō reira, i haere au ki tētahi pō patapātai, tētahi ruma pahiko, ā ētahi atu kaupapa ā i aua wā i huri aunoa anō au ki te reo Pākehā. Ko te āhua nei, ko tāku raru nui, ko ngā kare-a-roto o ngā tangata kē. Engari kia kōrero pono, kāore au e tino mōhio ana mēnā he takunga anake tērā.
Heoi anō, ko te mea nui i whakamātau ahau. I wero ahau ki a au anō ki te noho i roto i te reo Māori mō te nuinga o te wā, ā, kua mahia tēnā nō reira, e tino poho kēreru ana ahau.
Kei te mōhio ahau, koinei te tīmatanga noa iho o tōku haerenga, ā, ka taea e au te whakamātau anō ia rā, ia wiki, ia tau hoki.
My big challenge for Māori Language Week
I’ve completed my biggest challenge of this year. The challenge was that I tried to speak only Māori for the entirety of Māori Language Week.
For seven days, I spoke Māori at uni, during break times, at home, on the phone, in text and online messages, even to the cats! Now, the challenge continues here, as I write this in Māori.
So, how was the experience?
Although it may be hard to believe, the challenge wasn’t actually that difficult. I know that’s a bit arrogant to say, but here’s the thing. Before I started, it seemed like it would be a really difficult challenge. I thought: “I can’t really do this, but I’ll give it a shot.” Once I started, the penny dropped, and I realised that I’ve been doing this — challenging myself to speak Māori every day — for a long time already.
The main difference was that I didn’t turn back to English.
Before this challenge, I was super quick to revert to English just because it was easier for me. But during that week, I stopped, took a breath, and searched for the words I wanted.
At the start of Māori Language Week, I wrote a post on Instagram, letting my friends and family know about my challenge. Why? For the accountability.
If I told a lot of people, I would stay on the path. And so at the times I really wanted to go back to the English language and the Pākehā world, I couldn’t — or at least, that was the idea.
At uni, it was easy. We speak only in Māori all the time. It was a bit harder to do so during breaks and lunchtime, but it wasn’t a huge change for me.
The biggest challenge was when I left uni. It was when that happened that my mission failed.
I really wanted to go into shops and speak Māori but when I went, my words disappeared.
Sometimes, I tried to speak but nothing came out and I spoke instead in a kind of sign language.
Every time I went to any Pākehā space, my reo disappeared.
It seems to me that every time I spoke to someone Māori who doesn’t speak the reo, I was super aware of their potential embarrassment and struggles because I understand the pain that can come along with Māori Language Week.
In previous years, my pain was triggered by the idea of Māori Language Week. If you don’t speak te reo Māori and everything around you is saying “kia kaha te reo Māori”, it can be really painful. I didn’t want to do that to other people.
So, it was easier for me to continue in English to make it easier for others to talk to me.
Also, every time I spoke to Pākehā I knew didn’t understand me, I felt a bit rude — just like when I go overseas and don’t want to speak English.
So, I went to a quiz night, an escape room, and other events, and at those times I automatically switched back to English. It seems that my biggest issue was the feelings of other people. But to be honest, I really don’t know if that’s just an excuse.
At any rate, the main thing is that I tried. I challenged myself to stick to te reo Māori as much as I could and I did that, so I’m proud.
I know that this is just the beginning of my journey, and I can try again every day, every week, and every year.
Siena Yates (Te Rarawa, Te Aupōuri, Ngāti Kuri, and Tainui) is a journalist who has worked for Stuff, the New Zealand Herald and WOMAN magazine. She was born in Morrinsville and grew up in Te Puke in the Bay of Plenty, where she’s now studying te reo through Waikato University’s Te Tohu Paetahi programme.
Thank you for reading E-Tangata. If you like our focus on Māori and Pasifika stories, interviews, and commentary, we need your help. Our content takes skill, long hours and hard work. But we're a small team and not-for-profit, so we need the support of our readers to keep going.
If you support our kaupapa and want to see us continue, please consider making a one-off donation or contributing $5 or $10 a month.