Ministers, MPs told to sharpen up Te Reo

7:34 pm on 29 July 2015

Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori has brought the language out of the woodwork across Government and in Parliament.

Te Ururoa Flavell

Māori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Māori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell said he did not want to police the pronunciation of Te Reo in Parliament this week but people should be making an effort.

Mr Flavell challenged ministers and MPs to try harder and put more mahi (work or effort) into it.

He said those confident with the language should guide others. The Speaker of the House, David Carter, supported him publicly last week, saying he was sure all members would do their best - including himself.

Mr Carter kicked off question time in Parliament this week with a traditional karakia (prayer).

Mr Flavell said it was in Parliament where the example should be set for other New Zealanders.

"Unless Parliament takes a proactive approach in it, we shouldn't necessarily expect everyone else to follow - that's the point," he said.

He said Parliament was progressing - but at a slow pace. "It's been very slow, the whole move towards moving from having a person in front of the House to having simultaneous translation took about three years or so, and that's how it seems to track."

Mr Flavell said, when children grow up hearing the mispronunciation of a place or a word, it gets ingrained in their mind. He said people would learn if corrected.

"Unless you actually get a 'corrected-up moment' then probably people will never understand or know that they are mispronouncing Māori words."

National MP

Education Minister Hekia Parata Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Mr Flavell said people often mispronounced his name - and the name of Education Minister Hekia Parata.

Ms Parata said it was not so much her colleagues in Parliament who said her name wrong, but journalists and presenters in Māori broadcasting who should know better.

She said in Te Reo that she had heard all kinds of versions of her name.

"Ko te nuinga kei runga i te pouaka whakaata ki runga hoki i te reo irirangi... Ko taku īngoa ko Hekia Parata, kāore ko te Pārata, ko te Paratā, ko Parata."

(Translation: "The majority [of people who pronounce my name wrong] are [presenters] on television, and also on radio... My name is Hekia Parata, not Pārata or Paratā, [just] Parata.")

Green Party education spokesperson Catherine Delahunty said she had noticed members of Parliament trying harder with their Te Reo this week.

She said it was great to see people trying to use it but more mahi was still needed.

"It's not just about speaking Māori words with English vowels - it's actually twisting the language and we all make mistakes but we need to keep going.

"If you only speak it now and then and you're only reading it and practising it for one week per year - you're not going to get it."

Ms Delahunty said, although it was great to focus on the language this week, next week it would be straight back to a Parliament where only Māori ministers and a few Pākehā ever used Te Reo.

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs