Sara Ebsworth Sep 10, 2021 1:17:05 PM 13 min read

Māori Language Week 2021- A Journey into Te Reo

Kia ora koutou katoa
Ka mihi ahau ki tēnei whenua me ōna uri
Kei te noho tāku whanau ki Te Ika a Maui
Ko Whitianga tōku kāinga
Kei te noho au ki Ōtautahi
He Kaihautu Whakawhanake Tāngata ahau
He uri ahau o Te Reo
Ko Sara tēnei e mihi ana ki a koutou
Nō reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tatou katoa

My te reo journey

For purely selfish reasons I embarked on a te reo journey earlier this year.
I had been actively thinking about it for a few months and eventually, in May, I attended the 10-hour introductory Te hoe 1 course at Ara. I enjoyed it so much I then signed up for the year-long part-time Beginners Te Reo Māori - Te Kaupae 2 which I started in August.

I love it.

It’s engaging and entertaining, I’m learning new things all the time, the Kaiako (teacher) Manu is amazing, and I’m enjoying getting to know the other people from all walks of life in my class.
The Ara whare Te Puna Wānaka is a beautiful space showcasing traditional Māori symbolism in a modern setting. To be welcomed here is an experience in itself, the famed Māori manaakitanga (hospitality) is a joy, and to be made to feel a genuine part of the whānau is a humbling experience.

What a privilege to be able to undertake a high-quality course like this for free. How lucky are we in this country to have opportunities like this?!

One of my favourite learnings so far is the saying 'patua te taniwha o whakamā' which translates to 'banish the monster of shame'. This is repeated often; we're all encouraged to try without fear of failure or feeling ashamed. The class is a safe space, we're all learning and making mistakes, we've got varying degrees of proficiency in pronunciation and knowledge of kupu (words) and tikanga (customs).

Inspiration for the journey

I had some inspiration that kicked off this journey for me; I found out a few years ago that my beloved Grandad who came to our shores by ship in 1954 as a 16-year-old English boy had, in his 40s, taken night classes at Green Bay High in Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland) to learn more about Māori history and the language. My Nan says he had always wanted to learn te reo, and that he absolutely loved the time he spent there.

Imagine for a moment if more people treated the history and culture of their adopted country the way my grandad did. What a different place we'd be in now. I wish I'd known this before he died.

I do have a memento though, a beautiful carved wooden tiki wall hanging that he bought from a skilled Māori inmate when he was selling steel in a prison. It hung on his wall for decades and he loved it; now it hangs on mine. It's one of my favourite taonga (treasures).

When I got home to NZ in 2011, I noticed how much traction the Māori language movement had made in the years I spent overseas, but I also noticed a level of intolerance around me and even within me that I was and still am ashamed of. I don't remember being taught this intolerance, but I do remember the way Māori were portrayed in the media, the way treaty negotiations were reported on, and so on; it all added up to a pretty negative perception.

Hate and intolerance of things that are different is so often fed by ignorance; the more we learn about something the more we tend to appreciate it - I needed to learn.
I wish I could say right then and there that I made changes but I didn't, it took me years and I take no credit. The cultural shift in Aotearoa and the tireless mahi of so many people has brought te reo Māori into the collective consciousness and slowly I realised how interested I am.
Tēnā koe to those people who continue to drive the te reo Māori movement.

Now I am very proud to say I am learning te reo and I tell everyone who will listen.
If I can be a positive influence in any way and encourage others to get involved, I know that they will benefit from it in all the ways I am. And I like to think my Grandad would be proud.

Bringing te reo into the office

My enthusiasm for te reo and all things Māori is spilling over into work and I’ve been planning ideas to get the team engaged for Māori Language Week this year - starting next Monday, 13th September.

Some of the things I'll be encouraging the team to do are:

  • Register for and participate in the Māori Language Moment on Tuesday (you don't need to know any te reo to get involved!).
  • Create a pepeha with the guided tool at
  • Watch the Waiata Anthems series on TVNZ OnDemand – these are quick 15-minute episodes about Kiwi artists working with te reo Māori experts to translate their waiata (songs) into te reo. This show is great, I really enjoyed watching it (well, most of it - I'll admit I skipped the rapper episode).
  • I’m even (somewhat nervously) going to bring my treasured childhood Maui books into the office for the team to enjoy. These books are a great introduction to Māori lore and are still available today, they'd make a great gift!

I'm also busy making signs to put around the office of some basic words like colours and numbers, and I will be blasting my favourite Waiata playlist as much as I can get away with.
The Reo Māori website has lists of ideas if you’re looking for inspiration

If you’ve ever considered learning te reo, take that first step - you won’t regret it!
Start somewhere, start anywhere.

Got tamariki (kids)? They'll be learning te reo too (they’ll probably be able to help you!) and they'll benefit from seeing you embrace Māori culture, supporting them to do the same.

There is so much great online content, in the links above and plenty more. There are also podcasts you can listen to in the car or while cooking, apps with games to play while you learn, Spotify playlists, etc. The Te Aka Māori-English dictionary is a great free resource developed by AUT (and they have a paid app for Apple or Android that is well worth the $6.99)

Here are some other apps I’ve enjoyed using:

  • Drops  - a language learning app that uses a bunch of mini-games, very entertaining.
  • Kupu - a very clever app that takes photos and gives you relevant Māori words.
  • Tatau - an app that uses a game to teach you Māori numbers and counting (iOS only).

I runga I te ngākau māhaki

About the author

Sara Ebsworth

Culture drives any successful business and is key to Inde’s success. Here to make sure Inde is the place to be is our Kaihautū Whakawhanake Tāngata (People & Development Director), Sara. Sara's purpose at Inde is to create and maintain a great place for great people to thrive in their work by enabling every employee to grow, develop, and reach their full potential. Sara's background includes a dabble in IT that led to a Systems Improvement role with a learning and development spin. It sparked a passion for helping people reach their potential that has guided her career path since. Now focused on the success of Inde and our people, Sara spends her time on initiatives to make Inde the best place to work, trying to bring a sense of humour to all things HR, planning legendary team parties and generally making sure everyone at Inde is living their best life. Away from work Sara loves getting outdoors for any kind of adventure, hiking, camping, anything on the water and exploring anywhere new. She's currently studying part time at Ara towards Te Pōkaitahi Reo Māori (a Certificate in Māori Language) and is a passionate advocate for te reo.