Māori Language Week

This image shows a maori marae (meeting house and meeting ground)

This image shows a maori marae (meeting house and meeting ground)

Today marks the beginning of Māori  Language Week. Learning languages is a brilliant way to keep your memory and brain sharp and increase your knowledge of other cultures. To keep the language alive, it needs to be used.

Te Reo is one of the official languages of New Zealand, so make this week the week you learn a couple of new phrases, practice you pronunciation and embrace a unique part of our culture.

We are the only country in the world where Māori is spoken as a matter of course, and it is something to be proud of.

There are five vowels and ten consonants in the Māori alphabet.

The vowels are: a, e, i, o, u and : ā, ē, ī, ō, ū

The consonants are: consonants: h, k, m, n, p, r, t, w

The digraphs (two letters that combine to form one sound) are: wh, ng

Māori language doesn’t have consonant clusters (consonants that appear together in a syllable without a vowel between them).  Consonants are mainly pronounced as they are in English. The exceptions are ‘T’ and ‘R’.

‘T’ varies depending on which vowel appears after it. When succeeded by an ‘a’, ‘e’ or ‘o’, it’s pronounced with little or no ‘s’ sound.  When followed by an ‘i’ or ‘u’, it includes a slight ‘s’ sound, however not nearly as much as an English ‘t’.

‘R’ is commonly called a ‘rolled’ r. If you’re able to imitate the purring sound of a cat, you’ll know exactly what’s required to pronounce this consonant. Failing this, the sound you should aim for is something similar to an English ‘d’ – but softer e.g. judder.

The ‘ng’ digraph (the combined sound of two consonants) is said as it sounds in the English word ‘singer’. A common mistake is to pronounce it as it appears in the word ‘finger’.

The ‘wh’ digraph is usually pronounced as an English ‘ f’ sound.

Here are a few encouraging phrases to get you started:

Kia Kaha e hoa ma – Let’s go team
Irā – Look at that
Ka wani kē – Awesome! Fabulous!
Ka pai hoki koe – Good on you
Kai reira/konā -Right on! That’s the one