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Maori Language Week 22-29 July 2001

Maori Language Week 22-29 July 2001

20 July 2001
For immediate release and use

Maori Language Week 22-29 July 2001

As it is for many Maori speakers, every week is Maori language week at Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Maori, the Maori Language Commission, thanks in part to the efforts of Te Reo Maori Society, Nga Tamatoa and the Federation of Maori Students a generation ago.

Maori Language Week has evolved as an annual event that individual New Zealanders and organisations can use to measure their commitment to Maori language, Taura Whiri Chief Executive Haami Piripi says.

"Last year we began a campaign called "Into Te Reo" to encourage all New Zealanders to get out and learn or support te reo Maori. We are following suit this year with our "Language Defines a Nation," television campaign.

"This year's campaign is positioned to take te reo Maori to places it has never been before. We want people to look to the future, and see te reo Maori as a unique part of our identity, who we are as people and a nation. Maori Language Week continues to play an important role in the Maori Language renaissance" he says.

"We have also in association with the Maori pop band Aaria and Te Mangai Paho, the Maori Broadcasting Funding Agency, recorded a bilingual pop version of our country's National Anthem which we hope will help instill national pride."

Maori Language Week runs from Sunday 22 July to Sunday 29 July.

So where and why did it begin and will it be celebrated in the future?

Background In the beginning there was a National Maori Language Day. This was first observed on 14 September 1972, the day that the late Hana Te Hemara of Nga Tamatoa and Lee Smith of Te Reo Maori Society presented a Maori Language petition to Parliament containing more than 30,000 signatures.

Newspapers of the day exposed a "war" against Maori language that detailed the corporal punishment used on children who spoke Maori in schools, assimilation policies and the discouragement of teachers from teaching in Maori. It appears that the mainstream print media were very supportive of Maori language initiatives, The Dominion newspaper published its editorial on the 14 September bilingually, it was entitled "Akona Te Reo Maori/Time to Learn Maori".

The next year, 1973, the day was changed to Maori Language Week. The week was later moved by the Education Department to the month of July to fit within the school term, that is where it has been positioned since.

The 1970's was a time of tremendous political change for Maori in New Zealand. Race relations came to a head with the land march of 1974- 1975 which galvanized Maori to action. In October of 1975 the Waitangi Tribunal was established. The 1973-78 New Zealand Council for Educational Research Maori language survey was released showing that only 18-20% of Maori were fluent Maori speakers and that the te reo Maori was described as an endangered language in a perilous state. In 1986 the Te Reo Maori claim lodged by Huirangi Waikerepuru and Nga Kaiwhakapümau i te Reo Incorporated Society, was heard by the Tribunal which resulted in the establishment of the Maori Language Commission in 1987. The National Maori Language Survey of 1995 confirmed the earlier findings and indicated that although 59% of Maori adults spoke the Maori language, to some extent, the majority (83%) had either low fluency or did not speak Maori at all. Only 8% of Maori adults were highly fluent in the use of the Maori language and of those highly fluent speakers one-third of them were aged 60 years or over.

To acknowledge the significance of the 14th of September 1972 planning is underway to mark the 30th anniversary next year with an International Maori Language day. Some suggestions for Maori language week:

* USE TE REO MAORI : If you are a speaker or learner of Maori, use the language you have as often as you can, in as many situations as possible. Every contribution will help to promote the use of the language.

* ENCOURAGE OTHERS: Encourage all of your family, friends and colleagues to learn Maori.

* READ MAORI LANGUAGE BOOKS: Read aloud in te reo Maori to your children and or organise te reo Maori events for children outside of normal school hours.

* TAKE UP A MAORI LANGUAGE COURSE: Your local secondary school, polytechnic, community college or university will almost certainly have something appropriate to offer, whether you are starting from scratch or rekindling a previous encounter with the language.

* VISIT THE MAORI LANGUAGE RESOURCE SECTION OF YOUR LOCAL BOOKSTORE. There are number of books and tapes available now with a modern approach that make the learning process much more efficient and enjoyable than was previously the case.

* MAKE USE OF THE MAORI LANGUAGE PUBLICATIONS: The Commission challenges those with a reasonable grasp of the language to extend their competence. Visit you local library or the local branch of the national library where there are resources for relatively fluent speakers who wish to expand the domains in which they can express themselves completely in Maori. We also have a free quarterly newsletter, He Muka written entirely in Maori which keeps subscribers informed about what the Commission is up to, as well as acting as a vehicle by which our new words are disseminated. There are also a number of bilingual websites you can visit including the Commission's site at .

* PROMOTE MaORI LANGUAGE AT YOUR SCHOOL, PLACE OF STUDY OR WORKPLACE: Organise a te reo Maori display, event, classes, social get together or competition, at your school, polytechnic, university, marae, workplace, community centre or library.

* SPONSOR A MAORI LANGUAGE EVENT: Sponsor a lecture series, or create a Maori language scholarship.

* IMPLEMENT A MAORI LANGUAGE POLICY: Development or further implement a Maori Language policy and your workplace or place of study. Next time you place advertisement, advertise in Maori also. Arrange for Maori signage in your office, arrange for a Maori speaking receptionist to be available to Maori speaking clients. Arrange for pamphlets explaining your business in Maori.

For more information contact:

Lana Simmons-Donaldson Kaiwhitiwhiti Korero/Communications Advisor Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Maori DDL 64 4 471 6724 025 574 551

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