Inaccuracies of the language could see its demise by 2050

Ki te kore tatau e whakatika i nga tapepetanga o te reo, kua ngaro pea ia i te tau 2050. Koina nga hua i puta i nga rangahau a Takuta Rangi Mataamua. Engari he aha nga whakaaro o wa tatau matanga reo mo te whakatau ra? Te Karere TVNZ 14 September 2010…

See additional interview: Expert warns Māori language could die

The following is an excerpt from a news article of the same story…

“Adapting te reo was not a “positive” step. “You’re taking one language, with all its history and culture, and using the crude methodology of another language to describe or explain it… the beauty of te reo is lost in that adaptation,” Dr Mataamua said. The problem was people learned the adapted te reo and then perpetuated it” he said.

In the context of second language teaching and learning, in particular when teaching English speaking students te reo Maori as a second language, the teacher would not only need to be an expert in the field of second language teaching (i.e. applied linguistics), but would also need a robust model that will facilitate the teaching and learning process, especially if the medium of delivery is through the English language and to a target audience that I have described above.

I think that grammatical and linguistic descriptions used to describe and explain the English language has provided a valuable model to increase and enhance our own understanding of how the Maori language behaves at both the structural and functional levels. Therefore, reiterating my scenario above “…when teaching English speaking students te reo Maori as a second language” this model becomes a critical component of the syllabus in the second language classroom.

I think one problem associated with ‘adaptation’ is more to do with cognitive processing related to cross-linguistic transference, which can and does result in interference between the first and second language during the process of learning, rather than being associated with describing and explaining one language based on the descriptions of another.

The goal of the teacher, therefore, will be to find solutions to make transference or transition from the source to the target language as accurate and fluent as possible by means of ‘not adapting it’ but rather using English language models to facilitate understanding of how te reo works with an emphasis on helping students to attain a high level of accuracy and fluency in te reo within authentic socio-cultural contexts indigenous to te ao Māori. As learners progress toward more advance levels, it is expected that they would be able to transfer competently from one school of thought in their native language to another school of thought in their second language and attain to a level where they are as accurate and fluent in the second as they are in the first language and again within authentic socio-cultural contexts, e.g. I think English, I speak English, I act accordingly and I think Māori, I speak Māori, I act accordingly.

If students are manifesting inaccuracies in their learning of te reo Māori due to ‘adaptation’ then again I draw attention to the expertise of the teacher and their curriculum, syllabus and methodological design and implementation because part of students’ success is greatly influenced by the teacher, arā, mā mua a muri, ka tika.

I don’t think that drawing on English models of grammar and linguistic descriptions is intended to be detrimental to the integrity, essence or teaching and learning of te reo Māori in any way, but rather they have shed a greater light of understanding on the linguistic landscape of te reo Māori since the early Nineteenth Century. For example, if you consider verbs in Maori (e.g. active vs. passive) their various functionalities can be adequately expressed through English language descriptions and since I cannot find and do not use any other language models to do this, it only makes sense to me to continue using the English language models, especially when teaching Māori as a second language to English speaking learners.

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