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Technology revitalises te reo Māori for next generation

Technology revitalises te reo Māori for next generation

PhD research from Victoria University of Wellington is using technology to improve Māori language skills.

For her thesis, Tabitha McKenzie looked at improving te reo proficiency in educational facilities where Māori is spoken, and developed a professional learning and development programme in primary schools.

Tabitha hopes her research will help create a pathway to achieving Māori language proficiency for future teachers and children. “Anyone in our bicultural country who wants to should be able to speak and understand te reo Māori.”

Her research involved people in the wider school community who had interaction with children on a daily basis. This included teachers, teacher aides, principals, librarians and even one caretaker.

“At some point they do have an impact on students, whether that’s out in the playground, the library or in the classroom.”

The use of iPods and iPads, including the voice memo function in the devices, was the main means of monitoring the development of oral language. Tabitha was part of a team who created videos on various aspects of the language which were loaded on devices for participants and teachers to review, as well as meeting regularly with all of those taking part in her study.

Tabitha says initiatives such as like Te Wiki o te Reo Māori, or Māori Language Week and the Māori Television channel, are good ways of revitalising te reo Māori but believes additional new approaches are needed.

“Technology is one way of doing this that you can’t really go past, especially in the world we live in now.”

Tabitha’s own learning of te reo Māori grew from curiosity about conversations her parents had in the language, mainly when they didn’t want their children to know what they were discussing.

She says her grandparents grew up in an environment where they would “get the strap” for speaking Māori at school and this affected the learning of the next generation in her family. “I had to go to university and pay to learn to speak the language of my culture.”

Tabitha is pleased that she is able to give the gift of speaking te reo Māori to her two young boys. “I now have the skills and knowledge to pass on to them so hopefully they don’t have to pay for it in the future.


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