Be open minded and kind to others learning a language

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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.

Marriage Equality

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So the issue of marriage equality has come up again after Ireland resoundingly said yes to marriage equality. You think that would be enough for the PM of Australia to rethink his position but it hasn’t. A new debate over marriage equality has erupted in Australia and I am privy to some of that on FB via my friends.

From my perspective, there is a lot of fear mongering going on. For example certain people want to have the right not to service people based on the fact that they may be in a homosexual relatiobship and they’re planning on marrying their partner. There is a real fear that state will interfere with religion. I think that fear is truly unfounded – the state would never force religion to do anything. That would be a rallying cry for civil war.

I see no harm in marriage equality. If we wanted to be strict on marriage equality from a traditional Christian POV we’d also have to make homosexuality illegal again. And that’s just never going to happen. People om a homosexual relationship are already engaging in sex (which is the actual sin) – stopping marriage equality isn’t going to stop that.

Time we moved with the times and accept marriage equality.

Nōku te reo – I own the (Māori) language

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Kia ora koutou,

I thought this would be a simple post to write. It’s actually turned out quite complicated because I want to make sure I’m expressing what I want to say clearly without it being misinterpreted or encouraging unintended behaviours. So with that, I’m going to take a deep breath…and going to go for it.

Disclaimer – native speakers are the ultimate authority on any language. They should always be deferred to. Grammar books and dictionaries are acceptable in the absence of a native speaker. Feel free to skip the next two paragraphs which I’ve italicized.

In the situation of te reo Māori this comes a bit undone. Non-native speakers outnumber native speakers and they have a lot of influence over how the language is learnt and spoken through personal interactions they have with those around them and in media. So using the language correctly and how a native speaker is ever critical to ensure that the authenticity of Māori expression (whakaaro Māori) continues unbroken. That’s conventional thought.

However, in my personal experience, based on what I’ve heard, for those who speak Māori as a second language, or have learnt it as a native language show signs of interference from English. For example, a summit is often called a ‘hui taumata’ (lit. ‘meeting’ and ‘summit’) which sounds very English influenced to me. For myself, I’d call a summit a ‘hui nui’ (lit. ‘meeting’ and ‘big’). Some may find that inarticulate and too general (as nui can also mean important and famous) but for me that’s the natural translation that comes to mind. Why? I can’t say exactly. It feels right. Not very scientific or objective I know. And others will have their own ideas and thoughts. E pai ana tērā ki a au – that’s fine with me.

Normally in the process of learning a language a language learner will interact with native speakers and try to pick up native speaker habits on speaking the language ‘correctly’ as well as ‘incorrectly’. The amount of time this process takes depends on the motivation of the learner and their ability to absorb and apply new knowledge gained confidently and successfully. For example, if the learner doesn’t verbalise what they know then it is reasonable to expect that when it comes to speaking the way their mind works and pieces language and information together won’t be as agile as someone who attempts to practice their abilities.

So what does it take for someone to ‘own’ a language – to reach that point that they can speak about the language and in the language with a high degree confidence? As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, it takes time and practice. The advantage babies and children have over adults is that their brains are geared to learning and learning is a major activity that they are focused on 24/7. Not so for adults – not only are we not as capable at learning language as we age but we have other priorities in life whether it be family, work, exercise etc.

You know you’ve reached the point of owning the Māori language (or any second language) when the native speakers you socialise with stop complimenting you on how well you speak (or in some cases, how poor you speak) and instead communicate with you as if they are talking to another native speaker and seeking your opinion on a diverse range of topics. When you reach that point, you know that you have been accepted and can speak the language with confidence knowing that people are no longer focusing on how you communicate but are genuinely focusing on what you are communicating.

A truly golden moment.

Ko te Whano Humarie me te Maia – Being Humble and Brave

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Kia ora,

As I’m writing this post I’m listening to this song, Warm Water by Banks. It’s completely sensual and tribal, almost primeval. I first came across it from a fellow Les Mills instructor friend of mine who teaches BODYBALANCE/BODYFLOW. I’ve fallen in love with the sound and lyrics. It’s used in the sun salutation track for those of you who do BODYBALANCE/BODYFLOW.

In my previous post I wrote about five attributes that successful Maori language learners have. In case you missed them, here are the five attributes again;

  • being open minded
  • being humble
  • having emotional maturity
  • being brave
  • being committed

I covered three of the attributes in my last post. So in this one I will cover being humble and being brave.

I believe humility and courage in the context of learning and practicing a second language are interconnected. A successful language learner will use both to help them improve their language of level attainment. Either attribute on its own is not enough – if you’re humble but not brave, then will you ever get a word in on a conversation? If you’re brave with no humility, is what you’re saying going to come across as brazen and abrupt and know-it-all and ‘matter-of-factly’? Your success in forming meaningful relationships with native speakers and other fluent speakers hinges on having both of these attributes combined.

So what is a humble person? For me, I conceive a humble person as being someone who is a great listener. They also ask questions seeking clarification over what they hear and read and are ready to accept that they may be mistaken. They can take on board constructive feedback and see feedback as a positive experience. For example, we all get frustrated when we’re with someone who doesn’t listen and isn’t interested in ourselves. This might sound narcissistic, and it is, but it is human nature to be self-interested (to a degree though, narcissism is not socially acceptable and in fact is a disorder!) and so when someone expresses in us we are usually more than happy to open up and talk. But if someone was to talk to you and only talk about themselves, then most people’s normal reaction is to switch off and become disinterested. It comes across as arrogant – the exact opposite of humble. Definitely something to think about, and possibly to Google about if you want to read more.

The other attribute which works in conjunction with humility is bravery. Bravery to accept feedback. To put yourself out there. It’s scary – speaking a second language you’re not really confident in. But then, what’s the point of knowing a second language if you never use it, especially, if you’ve invested lots of time, and in some cases, a lot of hard earned $$$ into learning it. But if your nerves get the better of you, just remember all those interrogatives you learnt in class (e hia, tokohia, ko wai, pehea, he aha etc etc) are great conversation generators. Use them to get the person you’re talking to to open up about themselves (see what I wrote above about being humble). And as you listen to their response, you can use the information you learn to ask more questions and get them talking even more about themselves and before long they’ll start to talk about you and want to learn more about yourself. But be prepared and ready to accept you will make mistakes but for everyone mistake you make is an opportunity for you to learn and improve for next time.

That’s all I’ll write for now on these attributes. I hope you were able to glean something from these. They don’t just apply to Maori, they apply to any second or third or fourth or even fifth language you may be learning.

Te Reo Maori – He reo o te hunga hinengaro makohakoha

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Kia ora koutou,

Kua wheau rawa te wa i taku whakairinga korero i mahi ai au i tera tau. Kua tino warea au e nga mahi i taku oranga mai i te korikori tinana tae noa atu ki te mahi whakarauora reo. Me te manu wharau roa, kua hoki mai ahau ki konei, tuku whakaaro ai hei panui, hei totohe, hei whakakata (pea), hei korero whakamohio ano hoki ma koutou katoa.

Like a seasonal bird, I’ve come back to this blog to share thoughts with you and that you’ll get something from it. Writing is a release for me, a way for me to escape. This is therapy time for me. Ko au te turoro, ko te pae rangitaki nei te rata!

When I originally conceived this blog, I had the most pure of intentions of making it fully bilingual. Part of my neglect is that it’s hard for me to write a post once in one language and then translate it into another. For me, writing is a creative process and translation, as much as it too can be a creative process, can sometimes become a bit robotic, non-fluid and the essence of the post can be lost purely because the author has shifted focus from being creative in language and trying to convey through two languages what they are thinking and feeling at that moment.

The title of my post means ‘The Maori Language – A Language of the Open Minded’.

I have come to this conclusion because for me, in my experience, the only people I’ve truly been able to help on their te reo journeys had most if not all of the following attributes;

  • being open minded
  • being humble
  • having emotional maturity
  • being brave
  • being committed

Some of them are pretty straight forward, others not so much. I’ll go over some of them.

Being open minded is about accepting any and all experiences you have with the target language you’re learning, including its culture. In my case, that’s te reo Maori. And I mean accepting everything and understanding that what may be unacceptable in your own culture may be acceptable in Maori culture. And the same applies in reverse. For example, it is completely acceptable in Maori culture that at a funeral, people honour the deceased by trying to lay a claim over them and to get them buried at their own local cemetary (usually attached to a church or marae). And that’s totally cool. Yet, at a non-Maori funeral, say at a ‘white’ funeral (and I generalise here), such behaviour is not tolerated. In fact, it’s seen as the height of rudeness and selfishness. So when it comes to Maori culture and language, if you want to be successful, accept everything you see and hear and try to understand the logic behind.

Having emotional maturity is so important. Emotional maturity means that you are at a place where you can learn the language and take on board any constructive criticism. And the key word is constructive. If someone is being obtrusive or down right rude, then I implore that you take it on the chin and don’t stoop down to their level or let their self-esteem issues drag you down. You made a choice to learn te reo Maori and you awesome for just making that choice alone. If speakers can’t appreciate that decision, that’s their problem. Be happy within yourself you’re doing something that’s making you happy and feeling connected to New Zealand on a whole new indigenous level.

Being committed. I raise this because far too often I see people start learning te reo Maori with gusto and then give up after the second or third week when they realise it’s hard work. Yep, it’s hard work. It won’t come easy. In fact, it’s going to be so hard you’ll question your sanity. But I promise you, like your mum and dad told you, like your teachers told you, it takes practice, practice, and more practice. Practice makes perfect. We were all new to a language once. It’s a process we’ve all been through. It’s just that as an adult or a teenager learning another language we have something that children don’t have – and that’s self-awareness of our flaws. Don’t let that self-awareness scare you out of being 200% committed to learning te reo.

For now, I’d like to close this post off in Maori. It’s a reward for all of you making it to the end, and for everyone who is learning te reo Maori right now.

Mahia te mahi, ahakoa pewhea, ahakoa i etehi ra ka tupu ake te hiahia ki te whakarere i te kaupapa o te ako i te reo, kia u tonu. A tona wa ka whai hua koe i au mahi ako.

30 Day ab Challenge

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Take a look and join if you feel up to the challenge!

I aha au i tērā Rā Horoi?

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I tērā Rā Horoi i haere atu au ki tētehi hui e pā ana ki ngā rangatahi e whai wāhi ana ki te rāngai pāpāpho. Ko te QLD Youth Media Forum – Radio Active Youth te ingoa o te hui. Ka putuputu atu mātou katoa ki te poutaki kōrero o Radio 4EB ki Kangaroo Point i Piripane nei. E āhua 50 ngā tāngata i tae atu ki te whai wāhi ki tēnei o ngā hui.

I te pōwhiri, ka tū mai a Adam Lo ki te mihi ki te tangata whenua nō rātou te whenua i hui tahi ai mātou katoa. Ko te mea, kīhai te kaupapa i taea e tētehi māngai nō te tangata whenua i te mea i karangatia te māngai kia haere atu ki tētehi atu kaupapa.

He tino whakamere ki ahau ngā kauwhau ā tērā ā tērā me ngō rātou wheako mō te ao pāpāho ā-hapori. I whakarongo ake au ki a Sinead Lee me tōna huarahi ki tana tūranga hei kaihautū rangona kōrero mō te Hongere 10. E ai tāna, me hoko e tēnā e tēnā he puka whakapā i te mea ka tangohia te tangata mō ngā tāngata e mōhiotia ana e ia.

I kōrero a Erin McCuskey, nō Yum Productions, mō te “Mutunga o te ao Pāpāho e mōhiotia nei e Tātou“. Kia ora tonu ai ngā whatunga reo irirangi, me āhei i ngā poutaki kōrero te whakamahi i te ipurangi hei poapoa mai i ngā kaiwhakarongo kia whakarongo mai ana.

I tū māua ko taku hoa ko Aneel ki te kauwhau mō te Pekī me te Pukamata. I whakamāramatia e māua e pēwhea ana māua e whakamahi ana i te hangarau hei āwhina i a māua ki te tūhonohono ki ngā kaiwhakarongo nā runga ipurangi. Ko tāku ki a rātou, mehemea e mōhio ana rātou [arā ngā kaipāpāho] ki reo kē atu i te reo Ingarihi me kōrero e rātou ngō rātou reo ake nā runga pekī kia whai wāhi ai ngō rātou reo ki runga Pekī.

I muri mai i tā māua kauwhau ka tūtataki māua ko Aneel i a Rhianna Patrick, te kaikawe kōrero o Speaking Out. He hōtaka taketake tērā e whakapāhotia ana nā runga reo irirangi hei kawe i ngā kōrero papai mō ngā iwi moemoeā ki roto i ngā kāinga huri noa i te motu nei. Wiki atu, wiki mai ka tīkina iho ngā iripāho hōu nā reira pāwhiritia te hononga kia whakarongo ake ki a Rhianna me ngāna kōrero papai :)

I te kapinga o te hui, ka whakarōpūtia mātou katoa kia 3 ngā rōpū ki te āta matapaki ngātahi me pēwhea mātou e whakapai ai i te hononga o te National Ethnic Multicultural Broadcasters Council (arā ko te NEMBC) ki te Queensland Multicultural Youth Broadcasters Network (ko QLD MYBN tōna whakarāpopototanga) me ngā poutaki kōrero tonu anō. Ki tāku rōpū, ko te mea nui ki a mātou, kia haere tonu ngēnei momo hui, kia kaua rawa e mate ā-moa atu, i te mea mā ngēnei momo hui e taea ana e mātou e te hunga rangatahi te mahi ngātahi ki te tautoko i a mātou anō.

Mehemea ka hiahia koe ki te pānui i te roanga atu o ngā kōrero, me pāwhiri e koe a konei. He mea tuhituhi katoa tēnei paetuhi e ngā eChamps ā-rohe hōu.

Ko taku tūmanako, ka hoki mai anō tēnei kaupapa ā tērā tau :) E hiahia nei au ki te mihi ake ki a Rachael Bongiorno rātou ko April Adams, ko Adam Lo ki te NEMBC tae atu anō hoki ki te Poutaki Kōrero o Radio 4EB me ngā ringawera (nā rātou rā ngā kai reka i tunu!), mei kore ake koutou kua rangatira te hui!

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