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Changing perceptions over time

Experienced school leaders look back at the attitudinal shift over time, in terms of Māori language teaching and learning in schools. We hear about the value of second language learning in general – in terms of expanding our cultural horizons, helping us to appreciate our own language, celebrating difference, and working together.


It’s hard thinking back now about the changes in teaching in NZ. Maybe 15 years ago you would have found a few teachers who were saying why te reo, what use is that? There has been a marked change in NZ society and in education, where people will say it’s really important you have an understanding of te reo and everything that goes with that. And it’s very hard to find a teacher like that nowadays who say - well why teach te reo? And I say well if you don't want to teach te reo, why are you teaching in NZ? You've got to think about where you are and where you are in the world.

Jeremy Edwards – Northland School

In those early days when I first started teaching Māori language in the classroom there was very much if you couldn't say it properly don't bother. So that made people very very frightened to do it, because they were really anxious they were going to offend people.

The climate has changed and people are really pleased that you are trying.

Felicity Bothamley – Brooklyn School

There is that kind of fear that if you say something wrong that you might offend somebody. What I've learnt is that it doesn't matter if you get it wrong because there is always lots of people that you can ask. You know, am I saying this right, and they actually really appreciate that you are asking that.

Catherine Allen – Brooklyn School

Simply from a linguistic point of view, personally I believe that you know there is a great deal of value in learning any language, not only because it helps you to understand your own language, but it actually expands your horizons culturally. Learning another language (in this case te reo Māori) helps to expand people's appreciation of other cultures. Helps people to become more tolerant of differences.

Matt Barnacott – Northland School

We all have different roles in our society. And you have to work with everybody in society. One of the key attributes for our future citizens is working together and sharing the love of language. And different language is very important; it’s a way to work together.

Jeremy Edwards – Northland School

We are at the bottom of the world and we are very very careful about pronouncing French words, Italian words, in our culture, we would feel embarrassed if we went into a cafe and didn't say cappuccino correctly, but we are actually quite happy to say all our street names, and our place names in NZ badly. So it seems that we have a double standard. This is actually the place we are in. If we are going to worry about saying place names in France or Italy correctly, or using things like hors d'œuvre, those French words we have within English, then we actually have to start at home and pronounce our own words correctly.

Felicity Bothamley – Brooklyn School


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