Auckland City in New Zealand’s North Island is attempting to revive its second national language: Te Reo Maori. Before colonisation, Maori was the language spoken by indigenous inhabitants however it has largely been replaced by English as the first language. With only 2.3% of Auckland’s population able to speak it, COMET Auckland have launched an ambitious plan to make its citizens not only bilingual (with English being the other) but trilingual where citizens are to learn a language of their own choice.
The plan aims to grow the Maori language a part of daily life by introducing it into social contexts. Currently, its use is limited to formal occasions and within communities of Maori origin. Dr Hinuwera Potu, a PhD in Te Reo Maori explains that “”English tends to be used socially as there aren’t enough opportunities to hear Maori in social situations or to learn Maori expressions for gossiping with your friends, courting, playing”. She said words such as “wekeneru” which means ‘awesome’ or ‘cool’ are relevant to their lives and can be used on social media such as Facebook or Twitter as a starting point. With about 1 million Aucklanders only able to speak English, the challenge will be to find more practical ways to increase use of Te Reo Maori. Some suggestions include use by the city council, organisations and in welcoming “manuhiri” or guests to Auckland. The most important factor is to make the language normal and the responsibility therefore rests on all its citizens to make the Maori language their own.