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Free Māori classes at Ōtautahi restaurant

A Christchurch (Ōtautahi) eatery is offering free te reo Māori classes to anyone and everyone who wants to learn.

Fush, a whanau-owned and operated casual seafood eatery in Wigram, has long encouraged the use of te reo Māori in its premises by doing such things as offering bilingual English-Māori menus and using te reo phrases with customers.

“I was brought up speaking te reo Māori at home and primary school but it wasn’t until I got to high school that I realised how unusual I was,” Fush owner-operator Anton Matthews says.

“It’s one of Aotearoa’s three official languages and the preservation and normalisation of it is very dear to my heart. I only speak to my children in te reo Māori and we’ve always made it a part of the Fush culture too. Now, I want to give our community a chance to learn the basics for free.”

The classes begin Monday the 21st of May at 8pm and will run for an hour a week over the next four weeks.

The goal is to help people build enough confidence to speak and incorporate a little bit of Māori in their everyday language by the end of the four lessons. If it goes well, Fush will run more free classes.

All people have to do to is express their interest on this Facebook post, which, within just 12 hours of being posted more than 500 people had indicated that they were interested in attending. An event page has amassed more almost 1,000 people interested, and counting.

“The feedback has been overwhelming,” Matthews says. “We might well have created a bit of a beast! But isn’t that so cool?

“This is proof that, despite a few recent high profile xenophobic comments, Kiwis are embracing te reo Māori and there is a genuine desire to know more.

“For me as Māori, it makes me incredibly proud and excited to think that our native tongue will be commonplace in restaurants, supermarkets, and playgrounds my 5-year-old daughter, Te Ariā Aroha, and my 3-year-old son, Mana Ariki, go to.

“When Te Ariā Aroha started to speak to me in Māori at home it was such a proud moment for me. But then I noticed that even she, at just three years old, felt that Māori was a language reserved just for home. She would speak perfect Māori to me at home but the moment we would step out of the house, she would speak to me in English.

“It was basically at that moment that I decided my focus needed to be on the normalisation of te reo Māori so that my kids felt confident and proud to speak their native tongue while out and about.”

The language classes will be for complete beginners and in a very informal environment. Matthews says absolutely everyone of all backgrounds is welcome.

“For te reo to thrive, it’s so important we arm all New Zealanders with at least the very basics. We want to create an environment which is fun and encourages everyone to have a go with good company, without the fear of being criticised if they get something wrong. That’s why we think that having it at Fush with a drink and a bit of kai is the perfect way to kick this off.

“At the very least, we hope our classes will teach people the basics and help them pronounce everyday Māori words that so often get Anglicised, whether it’s Timaru (‘Tee-mud-eww’) or tarakihi (‘tudder-key -he’).”


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