Tainui course to invigorate regional dialect

1:28 pm on 22 June 2016

The distinctive Māori dialect of the Tainui iwi is being taught at marae in a 12-month language course through the Waikato Institute of Technology.

The distinctive Māori dialect of the Tainui iwi is being taught at marae in a 12-month language course through the Waikato Institute of Technology (Wintec).

Students and supporting whanau gather at the start of He Reo Aratau Certificate in Te Reo and Tikanga Māori.  The course is run by Wintec and focuses on the distinctive dialect of Waikato-Tainui.

Students and supporting whanau gather at the start of He Reo Aratau Certificate in Te Reo and Tikanga Māori. The course is run by Wintec and focuses on the distinctive dialect of Waikato-Tainui. Photo: RNZ / Aaron Smale

Waikato-Tainui and Wintec are collaborating on the 12-month training scheme developed by the iwi, which is part of a 25-year strategy to increase fluency in its dialect.

Chairman of the Waikato-Tainui board chairman Rahui Papa said the iwi was fortunate to have a significant number of fluent Māori speakers and they would be heavily involved in the teaching of the course.

"According to the latest statistics 31 percent of Waikato-Tainui have some kind of fluency so that's almost a third. For us that means about 22,000, 23,000 people. Te reo and our tikanga make us who we are."

Mr Papa said the Waikato-Tainui dialect had particular expressions and terms that were unique to the iwi and there could even be slight variations across the Waikato region.

He said the teaching would be carried out on marae throughout Waikato and would focus on Māori students at 13 secondary schools in the region. It would also include teaching Tainui history and customs.

Wintec director of Māori Hera White said the institute already had a strong relationship with Tainui and the teaching of the iwi's dialect was a logical extension of that.

The programme would be a collaboration, with Tainui leading the way on the content of the course, while Wintec would provide the academic support, she said.

"For us what's different is that it will be held in the various marae. The tutors have been selected by the iwi and also the course itself is provided by the iwi. I think that is quite unique. Anyone can run a course but we do have academic rigour as well."

Professor Rawinia Higgins of Victoria University said many iwi were using treaty settlements to revive their distinctive dialects. It was part of a growing confidence among iwi as they asserted their particular identity.

She said different iwi had varying levels of fluency in their own dialects.

"Because we are teaching across the board we don't necessarily teach dialect specifically but we raise awareness around where there is dialectical difference in the resources or literature that we're analysing at any one time."

Professor Higgins said an iwi strategy such as Tainui's gave native speakers a chance to pass on their knowledge in a way that was not always possible in a university lecture.

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