Toku reo, toku ohooho, toku reo, toku mapihi maurea — My language is my awakening, to be treasured.
For many people in te Tairawhiti, every week is a Maori language week. They are fortunate, especially if they are young and with a lifetime of learning ahead.
Their reo not only connects them to this land, its indigenous people and their rich culture — they also speak English, and their bilingual skills mean they can readily pick up other languages.
The whakatauki (proverb) above signifies the importance of language to identity and why it should be cherished.
This has been the theme of Te Wiki o Te Reo Maori this year and many of you have written to this newspaper and discussed with friends and family what te reo means to you, and its important place in Aotearoa, New Zealand.
For this korero, ironically, we can thank those people who took a public stand against the teaching of te reo in our childcare facilities.
While there has been vitriolic criticism, along with racist comments, from people around the country mouthing off on social media, the standout feature of letters to this paper — and comments on our Facebook page — has been their measured tone.
The mother who feared what response she might receive out in public can rest assured she will not face any problems — as long as she is prepared for an earnest discussion or two.
The Herald’s online poll this week asked if te reo should be compulsorily available — ie, there for those who want to learn it — in all New Zealand schools. Voting numbers were quite high at 324, with an even split for and against.
That is a disappointing result. It is fantastic, though, that this region’s childcare facilities, kindergartens and primary schools are introducing te reo Maori to our children. Their young brains are wired to learn language, making cognitive leaps that no longer take place at age 13 or 14 when our schools have traditionally introduced other languages.
Arohatia te reo — cherish the Maori language.