Te reo Māori a gift from mother to baby

By Leah Te Whata
  • North Island: West Coast

A group of Whanganui mothers are putting a spotlight on the importance of inter-generational language transmission in the preservation of te reo Māori and their regional dialect.

Sharnarose Peehi has two sons who have both been immersed in te reo Māori since birth. She says, “It's not as though it's an official iwi strategy but it's something we've done with our own families, to have children and bring them up in the language so it continues to survive.”

Ana Mārie Kawana is a mother of six children whose first and primary language is te reo Māori.  She says she's seen the benefits of raising children in the language and any suggestion that it has no use outside of New Zealand is irrelevant.

“I don't agree at all that there are no opportunities or that learning te reo is fruitless.  That's not what this is all about, it's about retaining the language within yourself and our children so it's never lost.”

With her first baby in the womb, first language speaker Hine Te Arorangi Kawana has already decided that her children's mother tongue will be te reo Māori.

“I grew up immersed in the Māori language from kōhanga to kura kaupapa to wharekura but as I grew up I realised the best place to nurture the language is in our own homes feeding it to our children and families, that's the key to the survival of the language.”

With around 150,000 people speaking Māori at some level, the hope is that more parents will choose to bring their children up immersed in the language.