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1 In 5 Māori People Speak Te Reo Māori

Almost 1 in 5 Māori adults said they could speak Te reo Māori, and a third said they could understand the language at least fairly well, Tatauranga Aotearoa Stats NZ said today.

Over half of Māori people had some Te reo Māori speaking ability. This is similar to the proportion reported in Te Kupenga 2013.

The data on Te reo Māori was collected in Te Kupenga 2018, Tatauranga Aotearoa Stats NZ’s survey of Māori wellbeing, which was answered by almost 8,500 individuals of Māori ethnicity or descent.

The proportion of those who could speak the language fairly well, well, or very well, varied by age group. Māori people aged between 15–24 years and those over 55 appeared to be among the most likely to speak Te reo Māori at least fairly well.

“The high proportions of younger people who are able to speak Te reo Māori may reflect the emergence of Māori immersion teaching and learning environments over the past few decades,” wellbeing and housing statistics manager Dr Claire Bretherton said.

“Of Māori people aged between 15 and 34 years who speak at least some Te reo Māori, 45 percent said they learned it through Kōhanga reo, Kura Kaupapa Māori, or Wharekura. This rose to 68 percent for those who speak Te reo Māori fairly well or better.”

Data on ways of learning Te reo Māori was collected in Te Kupenga for the first time in 2018. This showed that the language was learned in a variety of ways across different age groups. For those who spoke more than a few words or phrases of Te reo Māori, the most common method of learning it was by listening and speaking with relatives, friends, or neighbours not living with them (69 percent).

Younger generations of Te reo Māori speakers (aged 15–34) were more likely than older speakers to have learned Te reo Māori through language immersion environments, such as Kōhanga reo, Kura Kaupapa Māori, or Wharekura. Of those who spoke more than a few words or phrases of Te reo Māori, 42 percent of 15–24-year-olds and 47 percent of 25–34-year-olds said they learned Te reo Māori this way. In addition, 65 percent of 15–24-year-olds and 62 percent of 25–34-year-olds said they learned through other primary, secondary, or Māori boarding schools, compared with 21 percent of those aged 55 or over.

Speaking with whānau and friends and going to hui were important across all age groups. For older groups, however, language transmission through home and whānau environments was particularly important. Seventy-one percent of Māori adults aged 55 and over who speak at least some Te reo Māori said they learned this through listening and speaking to parents or other people living at home. This is significantly higher than for any other age group.

“This new information on the different ways Te reo Māori is learned can now add to discussions around future strategies for revitalising the Māori language,” Dr Bretherton said.


The data presented here is provisional. We used the best available population information to weight the data from those who answered the survey so that it is representative of the Māori population as a whole. However, delays to the production of the estimated resident population (ERP), following the 2018 Census, means that the benchmarks we used to do this are not yet final.

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