National Maori language comps ensure te reo thrives amongst the young
“Ko te reo te hā te mauri o te Māoritanga. The language is the very life-breath of being Māori” (Kāretu and Waite, 1988)
It seems suitable that the week following the article “Māori language ‘needs saving’” by Siena Yates is the National Secondary School Speech Contests, Ngā Manu Kōrero 2012. For those in my neighbourhood, this event will be hosted at the Trafalgar Centre, 7 Paruparu Road, Nelson from Tuesday 18th to Thursday 20th September.
The article on saving the Māori language highlighted a presentation given by languages expert Professor Ghil’ad Zuckermann, who spoke at the University of Waikato. “He said that the easiest way to tell if a language is in trouble is to look to the children … We need to aim to have 100 per cent of Maori children speaking it natively”.
Thankfully movements by Māori leaders such as Whina Cooper and Apirana Ngata among many others have lead to Te Reo Māori being recognised only 27 years ago Māori Language Act 1987, the establishment of Te Taura Whiri o te Reo Māori, and Ngā Manu Kōrero speech celebrations, to name a few. As an oral-based culture, whaikōrero (the act of oratory) is a skilled and learned gift, and therefore requires events such as this to hear, share, and celebrate.
Ngā Manu Kōrero are competitions held regionally and nationally for Māori pupils speaking English and Māori. These events began in 1965, and were sponsored then by Governer-General, Sir Bernard Fergusson. This contest was to encourage ‘a greater command and fluency of spoken English amongst secondary Māori students’ (Māori Ed. Org.).
Today the competitions’ intent is to encourage the development of skills and confidence Māori students in both languages. I see these competetions as the celebration of the voice of high school students across Aotearoa. The name Ngā Manu Kōrero literally means ‘the birds voices’, the prized vocals of important Indigenous life breath. In Māori worldview it was Tāne-Māhuta who gave the breath of life, and so it is his descendants the birds who carry this gift and spread the sound of life throughout the forest, and therefore the living space.
To name a couple of the current topics for each division are for English:
1. Whānau resilience is strengthened when whānau are supported.
2. My language is my strength, an ornament of grace.
And for Te Reo Māori:
3. Mā te wahine, mā te whenua ka ora ai te ao Māori
4. Me whakapono tonu ki te ao tawhito hei huarahi ako mā tātou?
I wish all speakers the best in their courage to stand if front of many hundreds of other students to share their views, and their voices – that is the prized gift of speech. I look forward to having my lunch hours at this event this week!
Ani Alana Kainamu (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Further information and references found at:
Ngā Manu Kōrero competition 2012 http://www.ppta.org.nz/index.php/communities/tangata-whenua/1060-tangata-nga-manu-korero
Kāretu, T. and Waite, J (1988) Te Reo Māori. Department of Statistics. Available at Te Taura Whiri i Te Reo Māori Website. http://www.tetaurawhiri.govt.nz/english/
Yates, Siena (2012) “Māori language ‘needs saving’” http://www.stuff.co.nz/waikato-times/news/7684379/Maori-language-needs-saving
Māori Education Organisation, The history of Ngā Manu Kōrero http://maorieducation.org.nz/mk/
Tākohatia, A community group towards Te Reo Māori on facebook https://www.facebook.com/takohatia