Te Kura Roa – Waiaro: State responsiveness towards the Māori language


There are multiple Government funded initiatives aimed at addressing Māori language decline, including increasing the amount of Māori Language spoken, maintenance and quality. Te Puni Kokiri (2006 Health of the Māori Language Report) touched on the attitudes of wider New Zealand society towards the Māori language as unengaging and unlikely to change in the immediate future (p.7). Te Kura Roa-Waiaro proposes to examine the attitude of Government (National and Local) policy in an attempt to gauge  how responsive the state (NZ) is to the Māori language.  From this study this project will ascertain what interventions can be developed to improve the Māori language. It will look at attitudes of managers and their staff in an attempt to understand what the impact the language has on the entity and its employees. From the data collected this project will highlight if the value that is attributed to the  language  impacts on societal attitudes.  It is hoped that with an understanding of the value placed on the language by the State, attitudes can be changed to reverse language shift that not only embraces language as a mode of communication but as a vehicle for expressing our diverse epistemologies and worldview.

This project will also focus on the effects of Māori language marginalisation on entities that are key advocates and educationalists in the revitalisation of the Māori language (such as Te Kohanga Reo and Te Ataarangi). What impact does the State have on the success of Māori language revitalisation?

Aims of the research are to:

  • Investigate what levels of policy contribute to Māori language revitalisation that encourages or dissuades people from speaking te reo.
  • Develop strategies to support Government Departments create meaningful policies that help shift societal attitudes towards the Māori language as a value element of New Zealand identity..
  • Examine which levels should be concentrated on (and how) in order to normalise use of the language in society.

As a core component of this project researchers will be tasked with:

  • Critically reviewing and analysing the literature on factors that contribute to the value and attitude attributed to Māori language use.
  • Developing and testing strategies for the normalisation of the language within New Zealand society from   collecting information on the attitudes that encourage, restrict or limit people from using the Maori language.

Both learners and proficient speakers of the Māori language learners are limited by the acceptability of the Māori language by non-using individuals and institutions.

What are the factors that cause these speakers to not actively use the Māori language in community and workplace forums? If the language is a National language of New Zealand, why do Māori still need to speak English when purchasing items, spell their names to reception workers, and/or speak English and not Māori.  Why does this societal imbalance on the value of the Māori language exist to the extent that people are not motivated to use it as their primary language, or as the language of preference? This project proposes that there are numerous factors that impede use including: behaviours, confidence, ability, and societal factors. These issues need to be examined to ascertain what strategies can be developed to encourage use in the community and the workplace.

Peer reviewed journal papers
Rewi, P. (2012). Supporting Te Reo Māori. He Kitenga Māori, 2011(Special Issue), 18–19.

Conference proceedings
Olsen-Reeder, V. and Higgins, R. (2012). Te Kōhanga Reo and Te Ataarangi. Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga International Indigenous Research Development Conference Proceedings 2012. The University of Auckland.

Project Team: 

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