Posts Tagged ‘Te Reo Maori’

You might recall that back in May, I learned the Maori (Te Reo) word for – manu – and I wrote about it here. I’ve recently learned a few new words in Te Reo that I didn’t know previously, purely by listening to the news, or to Dr Bloomfield, giving a daily COVID briefing. Regularly, he talks about needing rules in place or vaccination “across the motu” or islands. Today, he was being more specific about a particular area, and so I learned rohe, which means region. And in the last week or two, the news reported that a new appointment had significant experience working with rangatahi – the younger generation or youth aged around 15-24 – and Dr Bloomfield has since referred to reaching out to the rangatahi to ensure they are vaccinated. Since then I’ve heard it in a number of contexts, and realise it has clearly entered our lexicon.

Most of the time I can figure out the meaning of these words by context, but I usually Google just to check. This helps lock in the word too, so I can use it in the future myself. It is a subtle but effective way for the population – like myself – who don’t speak Te Reo fluently, to gradually find it a place in our spoken language. And I very much appreciate learning it this way.

There seems to have been an explosion in the use of Maori in the community and media in the last year or two. Journalists and broadcasters lead the way in this, introducing themselves in Maori, making greetings in Maori, and peppering their language with Maori words. In the last year it has become common to hear them thanking others for their mahi, which means work or effort. A year or two ago, I never heard it. The introduction of new words is happening regularly. Even the weather reports on Radio NZ or on two main media channels now refer to our major urban centres, most of which have official names of English or Scottish origin (such as Auckland, Wellington), by their Maori names, and by sheer repetition, I know that Wellington is Te Whanganui-a-Tara, along with all the other names. The Maori names are much more fun to say – compare Kirikiriroa with Hamilton, for example. Which reminds me of the old practice of New Zealanders travelling overseas claiming that they speak fluent Maori, listing off a lot of place names, yet claiming that they mean something else entirely!

A right-wing politician has complained that there is a stealthy plan to gradually replace the name of our country – New Zealand – with the Maori name, Aotearoa. And there are many who agree with her. But Aotearoa is such a beautiful word, and it is connected to this beautiful land where we all live. New Zealand was the name given by a Dutch explorer who didn’t even land on our islands, for goodness sake! So I’d be perfectly happy to change our country name (just as I was supportive of changing our flag, although the general populace was not).

I am extremely happy to continue to learn Maori by stealth in this way. I’d like to learn it more formally. I have plans. But I want to learn so many other languages to assist with travel, if I can ever travel again, so for the moment the plans are on hold. But in the meantime, I’m happy learning a few new words of Maori a week. Maori was called a “dead” language back in the 1960s and 70s. It is far from that now.

At the same time, New Zealand has a large Pacific Island population, and we are all familiar with Samoan names, the stop between vowels etc (eg in the name of the Samoan PM Mata’afa), as well as Tongan, Niuean, Cook Island Maori, etc. For a country that has been disturbingly monolingual, rarely learning second languages even at school or university, we are becoming so much better at recognising these other languages, pronouncing them, and – in the case of Maori at least – incorporating them into our everyday conversation. I will say though, that I was particularly impressed to hear a newsreader perfectly pronouncing and quickly enunciating the former Samoan Prime Minister’s name – Tuila’epa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi. I’m still working on this one. Try it – you’ll see why!

Aroha nui!

(with deep affection)

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Shall we go see the manu?” the young man asked the little boy as they slowly made their way down the stairs from the street to the duck-covered lawn on the edge of Queen Charlotte Sound. Seagulls flew overhead, squawking for food.

“The manu?” asked the little boy.

“Yes, let’s go and see the manu,” his dad (I presume) said.

“See the manu,” said the little boy, not sounding convinced, as he toddled down the steps and could see the manu getting closer to him.

“Yes,” said Dad, “that’s right. We’re going to see the manu.”

“See the manu see the manu see the manu seethemanuseethemanuseethemanu,” the little boy repeated, learning a new word.

I was hobbling (due to a minor injury) down the stairs beside them, and by the time I got to the bottom, I too knew the Maori word for “bird.” And now you do too.


  1. If I’m completely honest, I initially thought it was the word for “duck” although I had an inkling that manu – which sounded vaguely familiar – was more generic.
  2. Te Reo = Maori for “the language

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