For those who are learning Maori, what is the greatest challenge you face in getting fluent?

Q. For those who are learning Maori (as a second language), what is the greatest challenge you face in getting (becoming) fluent?

This is another critical question which has appeared on the Learn to Speak Maori Facebook. It’s a question in which I’m very interested as should be the case with all te reo Māori teachers because it’s vital for informing best practices for language teaching and learning in a language learning environment or classroom and is equally important for the educational and professional development of the Māori language teacher.
Although there is only a small sample of people involved, the responses contribute to the greater context of seeking solutions to the issues and challenges presented here. A survey would be an effective instrument to get a really huge, quantitative snapshot of how big the issues and challenges actually are that learners are facing as they learn te reo Māori as a second language. This would be an exciting venture…

…in the meantime, I hope that more people will respond to this question.

  1. #1 by Michael Taiapa on 14/01/2011 - 4:43 pm

    Learning a second language is a complex and long undertaking which impacts heavily on your time, energy, study, practice and commitment as you push beyond the zone of your first language and into the unknown territory of a new language, culture and a new way of thinking, feeling and acting. This push into a new language demands total commitment, total involvement, a total physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual interaction in order to receive and respond in the second language. The Maori language is no exception. There is no one set methodology of learning te reo successfully, but if one would apply the principles above then there is a successful chance that a student may achieve fluency in speaking te reo. However, it is important to understand that “accuracy always precedes fluency” when developing your Māori language skills. For example, there must be accurate learning at first, which could include memorization followed by repetition and practice before fluency (i.e. attaining to a level of a native speaker) can take place.

    With that said, my comments are really addressed, not at what may hinder a person’s progress while learning te reo, but rather what are Māori language teachers doing to 1) become aware of the issues that students face when learning te reo, 2) how are they approaching and discussing these issues and 3) what are teachers doing to find solutions to address these issues in terms of delivering language lessons that will help their students to become communicatively competent in the Māori language? The issues mentioned above will be a good starting point, that is, vocabulary and sentence structure, time and energy, practice, developing your productive and receptive language skills and the ‘whakamā’ syndrome among others.

    The challenge for te reo Māori teachers will be finding best teaching practices to help their students to progress from accuracy to fluency in becoming competent and successful speakers of te reo Māori, for example, the first issue above identifies vocabulary and sentence structure (i.e. language analysis), therefore, should a teacher teach vocab and sentence structure in isolation, in context or both? You see grammar is only a part of the bigger picture in language learning as it does not take into account contextual properties in which the language takes place. How would the teacher go about teaching that? And what are the pros and cons of these approaches?

    The answers to these question will take up pages of discussion, so I will not provide any here, but pose them for thought. However, I will be writing some essays that will address these issues and will make them available hereafter. So, Māori language teachers play a vital role in the successful learning or failure of te reo Māori students. I believe that Maori language teachers should be 1) competent, 2) meticulous planners and 3) highly skilled, qualified and professional in theoretical and practical principles in second language teaching and learning.

    Nevertheless, that being said, it is also the responsibility of each individual to be responsible for their own learning and with a bit of planning, organizing, commitment and looking around for good teachers these small steps can make help you make big strides in pursuit of learning te reo Māori.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: