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Developing a New Māori Language Strategy? Tēnei te haere whakamua kāhore rānei?

“In December 2013, the Minister of Māori Affairs, Hon Dr Pita Sharples, released details of a proposed new Māori Language Strategy for consultation with Māori language stakeholders.

Personally, I would like to see funding for professional development strategies, such as highly specialised courses that are designed and implemented to explore the plethora of issues associated with second/additional language teaching and learning with a focus on te reo Māori.

The courses would ideally be taught by people who specialise in this area, and, in particular, applied linguistics. They should also include a strong focus on principles of mātauranga Māori encoded within the model framework. The target audience invited to attend such courses would be veteran and new Māori language teachers who are teaching te reo to English speaking learners who are learning Māori as a second or additional language. For many people, including Māori, this would be a reality and, therefore, this course would be ideally structured with them in mind.

I’m not talking about native speakers (i.e. generations of speakers for whom te reo Māori is their first language) as this is a matter of first language acquisition and embodies a different framework of knowledge, but rather the focus is on second language acquisition as a key principle underlying such courses.

The importance and effectiveness of knowing what to teach and how to teach can be significantly increased when teachers’ can identify and address theoretical and practical issues associated with that teaching. Hence, the need for these types of courses. 

To reiterate the words of Ngata which is one of the guiding principle underlying the purpose of this site:

Tōu ringa ki te rākau a te Pākehā engari kia whakamautia rawatia ngā taonga (mātauranga) a ngā tīpuna kia piri tahi ai. We must be actively engaged in utilising universal principles available to us and applying them in meaningful ways to mātauranga Māori belief systems.

Final word. The new proposed strategy is a complex proposal and will no doubt raise more questions than it sets out to address. For example, is this new? There are many families who have been engaged in teaching and learning Māori at different communal levels using innovative ways, void of government intervention. So, the core principle of the new proposed model (i.e. placing emphasis and responsibility on communal structures for Māori language revitalisation) is not a new one, but rather it seems to be encoded in such a way that’s not obvious at first glance. Furthermore, based on this proposed model, I believe that iwi, hapū, whānau and tangata can only progress to certain levels in an autonomous capacity before finding themselves before the Māori language teacher again and in so doing creating a cyclical riff in the time continuum. If this be the case, then teachers may not necessarily be equipped with the right knowledge, and, therefore, submits the need for such courses as I have hitherto proposed. If teachers are experiencing such a dilemma, then how are people in the general population expected to proceed in this proposed endeavour. From the 1970’s to 2014, thirty four years later, it seems to me that āhua rite tonu ētahi rautaki reo Māori ki tō te tamaiti e ngōki iho ana ki runga waewae e whā. Tēnā, e tū, rapuhia ana, mahia! Arā noa atu, arā noa atu.

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