Understanding Māori language learners

Before COVID-19, my colleagues Dr. Maureen Muller and Tai Ahu and I conducted research for Te Mātāwai focusing on factors that enable and inhibit Māori from learning and using te reo Māori.

More than 1000 participants responded to our survey, and 57 Māori were interviewed across Aotearoa. From those who had not yet begun learning through to those with conversational proficiency, the main barriers were consistent: feeling whakamā about their language use, not having enough people to speak with, and having limited time and resources.

One of the things ancestral language learners (those with whakapapa Māori learning te reo) commonly express is that, through the process of engaging in te reo Māori, a high level of emotional vulnerability is experienced.

Māori language engagement tends to re-open discussions around why a learner might be in a position where they are needing to formally engage in ancestral language learning, as opposed to learning through intergenerational transmission. Within this process of enquiry, we start to reflect on our own whānau histories of language loss, which are inextricably intertwined with the violent dispossession from our iwi lands, resources, and cultural identities.

Language dispossession directed at Māori was an intentional process of colonization. State-sanctioned child abuse in schools imposed upon Māori children for speaking our language, even when they knew no other, aided the speed of dispossession (see Waitangi Tribunal reports, WAI 11, WAI 262).

Why is it important for us to know about the impacts of colonization on te reo Māori? Partly, because it impacts on indigenous lives.

Read more: Phys.org

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