Maori Language Comeback

The Maori language is making a well-deserved comeback in New Zealand. The language is also commonly referred to, or known as, “te reo” which translates to “the language”. It is a Polynesian language that has, for ages, been spoken by the Maori people. The Maori are the native people of New Zealand. This language has been so significant in the history of the country, that it has been an official language since 1987. Despite its importance, the number of people who speak, or are fluent in, the language has been steadily declining since about World War II. New Zealand, however, was not about to let the language die, and therefore a language revitalisation effort came to fruition and has been on the radar, and in the forefront, since about 2015.

In 2013, only about 3.7% of New Zealand’s population could actually speak conversational Maoriabout ordinary things. In 2015, however, 55% of the population indicated some knowledge of the language. Of this 55%, over 64% speak it at home, and about 50000 can speak it (self-proclaimed) very well. This indicates that these restoration and revitalisation efforts have been successful thus far.

There was no real writing system established when the Maori language originally came to fruition. Various missionaries brought the Latin Alphabet around 1814, which was adopted and systematised around 1820. Phonetic spellings were the result, which proved successful, and since then the written Maori language has not changed, with short and long vowels being differentiated using a macron.

The efforts to revitalise the language have come in different forms. Schools have implemented the language into their learning and curriculum at an elementary age. Adults can access learning through programmes and classes offered by experts and locals. There is also access to learning not just the language, but why it is crucial.