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World-leading App To Train Teachers In Te Reo Māori

Bay of Plenty teachers now have access to a world-leading Te Reo Māori app, through a Ministry of Education initiative aimed at strengthening New Zealand’s education workforce in Te Reo.

Reo Ora is a fully automated Te Reo Māori app developed by one of New Zealand’s leading linguistics and Māori language experts, Dr. Rāpata Wiri (Te Arawa, Ngāti Ruapani) and built by Rotorua-based Salt + Tonic.

Dr. Wiri said the multi-dialect app is the only one of its kind, accepting answers in all different Māori dialects based on tribal differences.

Salt & Tonic director Josh Dillner said it also features the world’s first transcription service for Te Reo by Te Hiku Media, where students can record themselves speaking and transcribe it into text.

"It's been a privilege to deliver world-class technology with a local solution at the core."

Reo Ora is working alongside Te Taumata o Ngāti Whakaue Iho Ake Trust with the Ministry of Education’s Te Ahu o Te Reo Māori initiative, with the aim of training 10,000 teachers and support staff in Te Reo Māori nationally per year, including 1,000 in the Bay of Plenty.

“Reo Ora will initially be used to train 470 people in the wider Bay of Plenty region, including Rotorua, across early childhood, primary and high schools,” Dr. Wiri explains.

The app is currently being used through Ngati Whakaue’s Māori language strategy to encourage a revitalisation of the language within the iwi and is also generally available to anyone who would like to learn Te Reo Māori through www.reoora.com.

Dr. Wiri says there is a massive national demand for Te Reo courses. Many institutions like Te Wānanga o Aotearoa cannot cope with the demand and have long waiting lists. He explains the app is an effective way of teaching and delivering material, as well as overcoming common hurdles students face when learning a new language, such as the fear of mispronouncing a Māori word or phrase, in public.

“The motivation for many students learning through the app comes from not wanting to say it wrong in front of a class. If they’re on Zoom, they can listen; they can practice on Facebook and go at their own pace. We call it self-determined learning and it’s the new way of doing things.”

The Reo Ora app supports students to become competent Te Reo Māori speakers in 12 weeks by teaching the 329 most commonly used words and the 30 most commonly used sentence patterns in the Māori language. These words and patterns make up 65% of everyday conversation.

“Ours is a formulaic method. It’s based on patterns and repetition of sentence pattern, which is the most effective way to learn a language,” Dr. Wiri said.

“We have taught over 250 students who have completed the Level 1 course with remarkable results.”

Liquid Financial Advisors owner and director Peter Moore is currently doing the Reo Ora course, motivated by his whanau history.

“My grandmother spoke fluent Te Reo, then my dad was told he shouldn’t as it would impact on his ability to get ahead – it also meant I was never given the opportunity – looking back, it’s a tragedy.

“So, I looked around for ages trying to find ways to learn Te Reo, researching textbooks and a range of other options. Then I came across Reo Ora. I’ve come such a long way with this course, which is great through the app as I’m too busy to attend lectures.

“Te Reo has a grammar structure that is crucial to understand – the way this course is structured has helped me to pick that up. I’ve learnt a lot. Discovering my language has been a privilege – it would have been lovely to have had the opportunity to kōrero with my grandmother,” Mr Moore said.

Dr. Wiri has been a Māori language lecturer within universities in New Zealand and Hawai’i for the last 30 years. During this time, he has taught thousands of students to become confident speakers of Te Reo Māori.

Dr. Wiri shares “No reira, kia kaha ki te ako mai i to tatau reo taketake o Aotearoa! Be vigilant in learning our native language of Aotearoa/New Zealand!”

He encourages everyone to practice these sayings in Māori:

Mauri tū, mauri ora! An active life force is a healthy life force!

Mā te whakaharatau e tika ai Practice makes perfect.


BACKGROUND

Dr Rāpata Wiri
Dr. Wiri is regarded as the leading Te Reo Māori language academic and expert in Māori language revitalisation. He was raised by his grandparents at Lake Waikaremoana and Rotorua, who only spoke Te Reo.

His knowledge of Te Reo shaped the rest of his career, beginning tutoring at high school from the age of 16. While studying at Auckland University in 1988, Dr. Wiri wrote his final Māori history exam in Te Reo. His professor, Ranginui Walker, called him in and asked why. He replied: “Because it’s the native language of New Zealand and my native tongue.” His professor smiled and asked him if he wanted a job as a tutor. Dr Wiri went from being a cleaner to pay for university studies to a Te Reo tutor at Auckland University from 1989 onwards. This kick started a 30-year academic career.

Eventually he became a lecturer, earning his Masters and PhD degrees in Māori Studies. In 2001 he went to the University of Hawaii and taught in the Department of Hawaiian-Indo Pacific languages, learning Hawaiian and Tahitian fluently. Returning to New Zealand in 2005 he taught at Waikato University School of Māori and Pacific Development. In 2009 he started teaching at Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiarangi in Whakatāne. From 2016 he took up a position at Māori Television as the Māori language strategy director, improving proficiency of staff at Māori TV, checking scripts and pronunciation of television presenters.

Reo Ora app
The precursor of the Reo Ora app, Te Pūmanawa, was first launched in 2013 by Waiariki Polytechnic, as the Short Award in Te Reo. It was the world’s very first Māori language app. In 2019 Dr. Wiri redeveloped with Salt + Tonic who have taken the app to the next level, using the latest in technology and automation. For more information, check out the apps state of the art features which include live stream and on demand classes, audio transcription function as well as over 100 recorded video tutorials and total immersion Te Reo cartoons with Dr. Wiri. www.reoora.com

Salt & Tonic
Salt + Tonic are an app and software development company based in Rotorua. They specialise in apps that help businesses to grow by reducing admin time, increasing sales, or improving communication. Salt + Tonic build apps in all shapes and sizes, for small organisations, and those who need to scale globally. They always love a challenge – the harder the better!

They often get asked what the name means - Salt + Tonic are not ingredients you’d expect to see together… but when you mix them you remove the bitterness and create a sweet drink. It’s the essence of who they are – they love finding creative mixes and partnerships that deliver outstanding results.
 

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