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Key Role For Mäori Parents In Language Growth

Parents play a key role transmitting the Maori language to their children, according to research released today by Te Puni Kökiri, and for the language to grow, parents must be given the right support.

Te Puni Kökiri Chief Executive Leith Comer says the process of parents teaching their children Maori - known as ‘intergenerational transmission’ - is the cornerstone of successful language revitalisation.

“Mäori speaking parents can choose to speak Mäori or English to their children,” says Mr Comer.

“That decision is critical to the future growth of the Maori language – and our research shows there are four key factors that influence this choice - knowledge, situation, motivation and critical awareness.

“If we give parents relevant, timely information about te reo Mäori and make them feel comfortable using the language - we can support their understanding and use the language. This will help the language grow.”

Mr Comer says Te Puni Kökiri will use the survey findings when reviewing the Government Mäori Language Strategy.

He also stressed that Te Puni Kökiri is committed to helping whänau, hapü and iwi develop and use their Mäori language skills – and says he will be sharing the survey results with them and helping them use this information.

Te Puni Kökiri undertook this research between January and March 2001 in four Mäori communities. The full results will be available in February 2002.


The Use of Mäori in the Family
Questions and Answers

What is this research about?
This research was designed to investigate the factors that support or hinder the use of the Mäori language among Mäori families. This process is described in technical terms as ‘intergenerational language transmission’.

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Intergenerational language transmission within families is widely recognised as the cornerstone of successful language revitalisation. This research helps us to understand this process in the Mäori context.

What is the key finding?
Mäori speaking parents can choose to speak Mäori or English to their children. The results show that there are four key factors that influence the choice; knowledge, situation, motivation and critical awareness.

What does it mean for the health of the language?
Te Puni Kökiri has recently released two related surveys about the Mäori language. The Survey of the Health of the Mäori Language 2001 shows that about 42% of Mäori have some Mäori language skills. The Survey of Attitudes, Values and Beliefs towards the Mäori Language shows that Mäori people value the Mäori language and are optimistic about its future.

This research about intergenerational transmission provides the link between these two results - identifying the processes whereby Mäori language knowledge and positive attitudes can be turned into actual language use.

How will the results be used?
The results will be made available to whänau, hapü, iwi and Mäori communities so that they can use the information to support their own language planning and development activities.

The results will also be used in the review of the Government Mäori Language Strategy to identify potential roles for government agencies in supporting Mäori intergenerational transmission.

How was the research carried out?
Qualitative data was collected from eight focus groups and seven individual interviews in four communities (Christchurch, Öpötiki, Porirua, Wellington). These communities were chosen to ensure a representative spread across different community types. The research participants were predominantly Mäori parents.

What is ‘critical awareness’?
Critical awareness means that Mäori parents are aware of the choices they can make about the transmission of Mäori to their children, and the consequences of their decisions.

What is a ‘community lead’?
A community lead is best defined by the work they do. They are the people who provide safe environments to speak Mäori by letting people make mistakes without making them feel inadequate and by speaking to learners at a level they can understand.

They could be a colleague in a Mäori language class who helps all the others with their vocab and structures, a relative who you can ask for help and assistance, or a workmate. They could be tutor of a mau taiaha or kapa haka group. The key is that these people allow learners to ask questions, or practice their Mäori on them without any fear of being made to feel inadequate. They speak Mäori to these people to encourage use of whatever level of knowledge they may have. They create domains where it is ok to use either Mäori or English.

Why is there mention of assisting fluent speakers?
By providing fluent and native speakers with appropriate information, we can increase the potential of possible “community leads” and people who can set safe learning and speaking environments. Being a native speaker in any language does not necessarily mean that you are aware of second language learning issues and ways in which to help learners of your language to develop their own language skills.

Media statement
For immediate release
14 December 2001

Te Wähi Nui ki ngä Mätua Mäori e Tipu ai te Reo

He wähi nui tö ngä mätua ki te tuku i te reo Mäori ki ä rätau tamariki, e ai ki tëtahi rangahau i whakaputahia i te rangi nei e Te Puni Kökiri. E tipu ai te reo, me torotika te tautoko i ngä mätua.

E kï ana a Leith Pirika Comer, te manahautü o Te Puni Kökiri, ko te tuku a te pakeke i te reo ki tamaiti tëtahi ähuatanga taketake o ngä mahi whakaora reo.

“Ka taea e ngä mätua körero Mäori te whiriwhiri, me körero Mäori ki ngä tamariki, me körero Ingarihi ränei” hei tä Leith Pirika Comer.

“Ka tino whaipänga tërä köwhiringa ki te tipunga o te reo Mäori ä ngä tau e heke mai nei – e tohu ana ä mätau rangahau, e whä kë ngä ähuatanga kawekawe e whakaarohia ana ki roto i tënei köwhiringa - ko te möhio ki te reo, ko te wähi, ko te hiahia ki te reo, me te märama anö hoki ki ngä take whakaora reo”.

“Ki te tukuna ki ngä mätua he pärongo e hängai ana ki a rätau, ä, ki te whakamanawatia hoki rätau ki te körero i te reo – mä konei e tautoko te märama ki ngä take whakaora reo me töna körerotanga. Mä konei e tipu haere ai te reo”.

E kï ana a Leith Pirika Comer, ka whakamahi a Te Puni Kökiri i ngä hua rangahau ki te whakahou ake i te Rautaki Reo Mäori a te Käwanatanga.

Ka whakahua anö hoki ia i te ü o Te Puni Kökiri ki te äwhina i ngä whänau, ngä hapü me ngä iwi ki te whakapakari i a rätau anö, ki te whakarite hoki i ö rätau ake mahere reo Mäori – e kï ana ia, ka tukuna ngä momo körero nei ki a rätau, ä, ka äwhinatia hoki rätau ki te kökiri i ngä momo mahi nei.

He mea whakahaere te rangahau nei e Te Puni Kökiri i ngä hapori Mäori e whä, i waenga i te Kohitätea me te Poutü-te-rangi o 2001. Hei te Hui-Tanguru o 2002, ka tukuna te roanga atu o ngä körero nei ki te ao.


Mö te roanga ake o ngä körero, me whakapä ki a:
Angela Paul
Communications consultant
Te Puni Kökiri
Phone: 922-6016

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