Introduction to The Maori Language

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If you're heading off on a world tour, and wish to visit the Antipodes, don't forget to visit the wee tiny country of New Zealand. It is really a beautiful place, though unfortunately moving too fast in to the twenty-first century and forgetting its cultures.

The Maori culture being one of these cultures is not widely known around the world, but here in New Zealand it is becoming a more and more respected culture. This is happening because as a country, New Zealand is now realising that if we do not treasure our people, the nation will fall apart.
Lesson One: New Zealand was originally named 'Aotearoa' by the Maori people. It means 'land of the long white cloud'.

Back in the early days of Aotearoa, when the land was being settled by the second time by Europeans a treaty was struck between the two nations of people (Maori and European) called 'The Treaty of Waitangi'. Although the treaty has never been broken officially it is still the source of many problems Aotearoa has today, caused by conflict of cultures, ideas, and general misunderstandings.
Lesson Two: To understand Te Reo Maori (the Maori language), Te Maoritanga (the Maori culture) must be studied. Many elements of protocol and religion are incorporated in to te reo, as with any other language. For instance in Te Reo Maori saying "Kia ora" usually means hello, but it can also mean please, thankyou, goodbye. A more formal way of saying hello to one person is, "Tena Koe". And a more formal way of saying goodbye is, "Haere ra". But you could also say, "Ka kite ano", which means 'see you again'! It depends which situation you find yourself in.

In the New Zealand Qualifications system, School Certificate Maori is earned by taking a written exam, which many people think is unfair. This is because Maori was originally an oral language, therefore never had any characters to represent words. Maori myths and stories are passed down from generation to generation and it is more important to be able to speak well in Maori than it is to write an essay in Maori.
Lesson Three: The vowel sounds in Te Reo Maori are very different from in English and are as follows:
a - is pronounced as in the word 'far'
e - is pronounced like the 'ea' as in the word 'leather'
i - is pronounced like the 'e' in the word 'me'
o - is pronounced as the word 'awe'
u - is pronounced like the 'oo' in 'moon'
Any vowel that is covered with a macron or a line (-) is said like a double of that vowel, longer.

Te Reo Maori is very complex and unique to Aotearoa. It requires effort to learn the language and respect to learn the culture, but it is most definately a beautiful language. These words and this history are only the doors that lead to a completely different world. Te Ao Maori (the Maori world) does not contain any elements of the Western world in it and to many people awakens a sense of wild, primative and fresh feelings within themselves.

Common Words and Phrases Used:
Waiata - song
Haka - war dance
Haere Mai - welcome
Kei te pehea koe? - How are you? (usually answered with 'Kei te pai ahau' (I am good))
Pakeha - European person or foreigner
Whare - house
Marae - the community of Maori, a very important part of Maori culture (the meeting place of families and tribes)

Haere ra!

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