“A very general definition of ‘expert’ might be defined as a person who has knowledge and skills in a particular subject in which that person specializes with some level of authority in both theory and practice”.
I apply the definition above to the term Māori language expert (MLE) in a brief discussion below. I hear the phrase MLE being used a lot on Māori TV, reo irirangi, niupepa and other media and I had to ask myself the following questions in order to understand what that might imply. Three very general, but critical questions I think that needs to be asked includes: “what does it mean to be a MLE”? In what context(s) would a MLE be found (e.g. language education, revitalization or translation theory and practice etc)? And what knowledge and skills might characterize a MLE in that context?
For me, when I hear the phrase MLE, I immediately locate it within an academic and educational context in terms of my own field of study in applied linguistics including pedagogically-oriented descriptions of te reo Māori in order to facilitate teaching and learning objectives. However, I must also consider that the phrase MLE can be characterised from different contextualized perspectives, that is, MLEs possessing different variants within different contexts.
For example, my field of study will naturally inherent knowledge and skills familiar to that field and will give quite a different outlook of what will constitute a MLE in that field when compared, for example, with a MLE in the field of Māori language revitalization, which are not one in the same. And although some knowledge and skills can be transferable across both domains, the expertise involved will be quite different to some very great extent.
So, I direct, therefore, the questions with some variations, at Māori language teachers (MLTs) who are actively engaged in the teaching and learning of te reo Māori as second or additional language to speakers of English. That is, “what does it mean to be a Māori language expert in this context? And what level of knowledge and skills might characterize a MLE in this context. Can one say, because I can speak fluent te reo, I can, therefore, teach it. This may be so, but to what extend before one realizes that some specialized knowledge and skill must be attained, like the young, fledging warrior of the old school whare wānanga, in order to reach a level of expertise to teach Māori beyond the novice level into the realm of becoming a qualified expert.
These questions raise some critical issues in my field of study because it seems to me that the characteristics of a MLE in this context needs to be defined with some clarity if the teaching and learning of te reo Māori as a second or additional language is to have some success for both teacher and learner. And also to raise another issue of comparing and contrasting to some extent what MLE means in different contexts.
I’ll leave it there for now, but I want to develop this idea some more in my newly added section ‘Professional Development’. So, check back later and please feel free to add your thoughts.
Post-post thought: I would also ask the same question of the expert in the field of Māori language revitalization. What other contexts (i.e. field of study) would you find a MLE? What are you a MLE of?