I have a love-hate relationship with the Facebook group Te Mana o te Reo Maori. It’s a love-hate relationship because I go in there to be inspired and I do find some really beautiful korero (words) that I read that inspire me and then there are things in there that I read that really get on my nerves. I want to say though, that what irks me isn’t limited to just Te Mana o te Reo Maori, but can be found in many places over the internet and in day to day life.
There is a strong elitist attitude or element some may say among speakers te reo Maori. This isn’t unique to te reo Maori – there are elitists in all languages. And being an elitist isn’t necessarily a bad thing – it’s the attitude, the holier than thou, the I know more than you attitude that some have that is problematic. Why? Because in the case of Maori, we’re trying to revive a language and when you have elitists prescribing language it causes all sorts of problems – mostly self-confidence issues for their poor prey but also to my chagrin they sometimes prescribe language use and get it wrong.
I tend to take a laid back approach to language. And by laid back, I mean, I analyse the language and determine whether it is correct or not and then I determine if it’s understandable or not. The two don’t necessarily align neatly – one can speak poor language but still be understandable and the opposite is also true – one can speak 100% correct language but be incomprehensible to everyone but themselves. So when I assess reo I take both into account – I do prefer correct form and the way that I motivate people is to tell them what they’re doing right and then I give them some advice on how they can improve. I just tell them one or two things that stand out. I don’t believe in over loading people with too many things to work on. And I certainly don’t tell them that they’re not thinking Maori one because it does nothing for self esteem and also thinking Maori is such a vague concept.
I’m starting to ramble on in this post. I don’t know if I made my point(s). But basically, be kind, be understanding, encourage, and don’t tell people that they’re not thinking Maori. Because unless you can identify what it is specifically means to think Maori, and can break it down for them, you’re wasting your breath.