13 May 2018

Te Reo card game offers fresh approach to learning names and pronunciation

From Te Ahi Kaa, 6:06 pm on 13 May 2018
Tommy Kapai Wilson is set to roll out a whanau friendly board game designed to entertain and educate.

Tommy Kapai Wilson is set to roll out a whanau friendly board game designed to entertain and educate. Photo: RNZ/Justine Murray

A new card game designed to help people learn and pronounce te reo place names lands in New Zealand schools and workplaces in the coming weeks.

The creator of Koha, Tommy Kapai Wilson hopes it will help normalise Māori language in homes, offices and schools, and eventually prisons and government departments.

School principals were positive about the first prototype of Koha, which the Tauranga writer designed three years ago with his good friend, the late Awanuiārangi Black.

That version of the game pertained to marae, iwi (tribes) and hapū (sub-tribes) within the Bay of Plenty region.

The new version focuses on learning te reo place names and their correct pronunciation for regions all around the country,

The game's format could be adapted to other indigenous cultures around the world, Kapai Wilson says.

“I was on a walkabout with my Aboriginal brothers… and we visited the first Aboriginal college that teaches their indigenous language in the mainstream. And that was just a lightning rod moment for me, to see there is an opportunity to build on. The challenge in Australia is they’ve got 200 dialects. I’m only looking at the translation of the places where the people live, so this is not about going deep into the Aboriginal culture, but it’s a window opening up to the culture through a game."

Koha represents a fresh approach to learning, Kapai Wilson says.

“I didn’t want to do the 'same ole same ole', because some of those education [strategy] plans still sit on shelves. I was trying to come up with something innovative and creative where it was ‘edutaining’ to learn not only the reo, but the pronunciation of it and more importantly what it means and the significance of those individual iwi areas.”

Koha will be available at selected offices, schools and government departments, and a retail outlet. 

Kapai Wilson lives in Te Puna, Tauranga, where he runs Te Tuinga Whanau – a support organisation which helps up to 4,000 people a year who have health issues resulting from addiction and/or been displaced by homelessness.

Te Tuinga hosts a weekly soup kitchen, and earlier this year launched The Happy Puku – a catering company in which people who've have helped by the organisation learn about hospitality, catering and service.

Kapai Wilson describes his role at Te Tuinga as 'Chief Imagination Officer'.

The organisation has a ‘dream factory’ room where people are encouraged to realise their dreams.

“The kaupapa works in well with this game. It marries perfectly with the kaupapa of Te Tuinga, which means to join the community or weave together the people.”

He has authored 31 children’s books, including the series Kapai the Kiwi and Cuzzies.

He is a member of Tauranga Writers Club and has been a columnist for 18 years.