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A passion for learning te reo

ALLIE Templin has always had a passion for language and people. It’s a great combination, especially if you are a speech language therapist.

And for Allie, it is the perfect job because it brought her and her whanau from the United States to Gisborne in 2014. The work has developed her passion for language and culture even more.

In meeting Allie, she delivers a customary greeting, saying who she is and where she comes from.

“Tena koe. Ko Allie Templin toku ingoa — Hello, my name is Allie Templin.

“No Amerika ahau — I come from America.”

Even with the American accent, her pronounciation is impressive.

A genuine interest, a respect for culture and a keen attitude make all the difference, says Allie.

“Te reo Maori is a very beautiful language, and it is really fun to learn,” she says.

“I love to learn languages and I have always been interested in different cultures.

“I grew up in south Texas in San Antonio. It is a very bilingual place with many Hispanic and Mexican people.

“It's sort of like Gisborne, where there's a good mix of Maori and non-Maori people here.”

It is fair to say that the passion for language and culture is part of Allie’s whakapapa (heritage).

“I have been around different languages my whole life.

“My mum is a nurse and is always speaking Spanish, and I recently found out that my aunt was a linguist. When I was younger I learned Hebrew, then Spanish in high school.”

Night classesNow she attends kura po (night classes) at EIT’s Whatukura — School of Maori learning. “The tutors I have had are so passionate about te reo and they have so much to share.

“But I hear te reo all around me a lot, not just in class.

“I hear my co-workers speaking it, and whanau speaking it.

“It’s really easy to immerse yourself in te reo here in Tairawhiti.

“My kids are learning as well, and my son loves to ask me, ‘kei te pehea koe? — how are you?’

“But I have learned that in some parts of Tairawhiti you say, ‘kei te aha?’ instead.

“We have been teaching each other and it has been fun learning together as a whanau.”

Working and learning with whanau is what led Allie to become a speech language therapist, which she has been for the past 10 years.

“When I was younger I worked at a summer camp for children with disabilities.

“I took a class about communication development, which had a focus on working with children and language.

“So I more or less fell into the job. But because of my history and interest in languages and cultures, it was the perfect fit.”

It was good timing that when Allie and her whanau wanted to leave the US, New Zealand needed speech language therapists.

“New Zealand is beautiful, with very warm and welcoming people. You don’t have to worry about gun violence here like in the US.”

“That was the main reason we wanted to leave. We wanted a better life for our family and a safer place for our children to grow up in.

“Because of the demand for speech language therapists in New Zealand, I was able to transfer easily.”

ReactionsAllie says she has received “interesting reactions” from some people, about embarking on a te reo journey.

“People are surprised when they learn I’m an American and I want to learn te reo Maori.

“I think ‘why not?’ It is the first language of this country and it is a beautiful language.

“It can be slightly easier being an immigrant in learning the language, because I didn’t grow up hearing or saying ‘towel-rung-ah’ for Tauranga.

“I first heard it pronounced correctly, so there was no opportunity for those bad habits to be developed.

“I’m also interested in the people here and the history. This place is very rich in history.

“As a newcomer, it’s sometimes easier to take an interest than some who may have disconnected themselves their whole life.”

She believes learning te reo Maori is an integral part of her job, and that it has helped her to connect with the people of Tairawhiti.

“I get to work with a lot of Maori whanau and kaiako, by going into kohanga reo and kura kaupapa with my co-workers.

“It has been an awesome way for me to show that I care about them, that I’m interested and I understand more about who they are and where they are coming from.

“My aim is to support them with their children’s communication, and learning te reo and Maori cultural values has really helped me to connect with whanau.”

NO AMERIKA AHAU (I COME FROM AMERICA): Allie Templin loves the history and language of her adopted city. Picture supplied