21 Oct 2010

Hapu leader says te reo a dying language

2:07 pm on 21 October 2010

A Maori academic and Northland hapu leader says te reo is a dying language and money should instead be spent on other aspects of Maori culture.

A report on the Maori language by the Waitangi Tribunal has criticised the Government's efforts to protect te reo and warns the language is under renewed threat.

But Matarahurahu hapu spokesperson David Rankin, a fluent te reo speaker, says it will be a dead language once the elderly, authentic speakers of today and the two generations who learned from them die.

And he says the responsibility of making sure te reo is spoken rests with Maori, not the Government.

Mr Rankin says te reo will survive for academic and ceremonial purposes as Latin does.

He says it breaks his heart that his language is a lost cause, but English is too powerful.

However, a pioneer of the Maori immersion movement Kohanga Reo says the battle to preserve Te Reo is far from lost.

Dame Iritana Tawhiwhirangi says when the education minstry took over Kohanga Reo from the arms-length support of the ministry of Maori Affairs in 1989, regulations and compliance meant only qualified teachers could participate.

She says fluent speakers were therefore pushed out of passing on their language, a role they were better qualified to fulfil than a teacher with even 20 years of university education.

Dame Iritana says family and community members could still be harnessed today by schools to boost language learning.