Topic: Education

Dr Seuss in te reo Māori - A translation challenge

By Wepiha Te Kanawa
  • Auckland

If you’re looking for a Christmas present, Dr. Seuss’ Māori version of ‘The Cat in the Hat’ ‘Te Poti Rō Pōtae’ should be at the top of your list.

But a Māori language expert is warning that the misuse of macrons in the book could mislead learners of the language.

Pania Papa says, “Translators today need to ensure that the written language is correct.  If a child reads that book and they were just learning and didn't understand the written language, they might think that kākāhū(clothes) is the correct way of saying the word, because the macrons are in the wrong place."

Ngamaru Raerino translated ‘Te Poti Rō Pōtae’ back in 2004 and was published by Harpercollins, he says that was one of the discussions he and the Māori language Commission had during that time.

“That was one of the challenges the Māori Language Commission and I face, and we discussed it long and hard.”

Mr Raerino is a tribal leader from the Bay of Plenty who has been involved in productions over the years including Shortland Street and Māori Television. Raerino says this is a sign that our language and culture is evolving.

“If we look at this generation and their songs it's different, we talked earlier about rappers, and how they emphasise different syllables in words.”

Papa says she enjoyed the creativity of the translator's language but warns we have a responsibility because we are moulding the minds of future Te Reo Māori speakers.

“My challenge to translators today is to ensure our written language is correct in children books, because if we are wrong it will continue to the next generation,” Papa says.