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Published 17 September 2020

Ka ūkaipō anō te reo

Professor Rawinia Higgins sat down for a kōrero with Royal Society Te Apārangi staff on revitalising te reo.

At 12pm on 14 September over a million New Zealanders all around the world celebrated Māori Language Moment.

This moment was the largest, single celebration of te reo Māori in history. With Te Taura Whiri having the goal of 1 million Māori language speakers by 2040. In 2020 we started with a moment. Royal Society Te Apārangi joined in as an organisation. Staff members gathered at 12pm to waiata while others participated through kōrero, ako or pānui.

Professor Rawinia Higgins (Tūhoe), Te Tumu Ahurei Māori Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Māori at Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington and the Māori Language Commissioner, sat down to have a kōrero with our directors Kahu Hotere and Tarah Nikora of Royal Society Te Apārangi.

Rawinia interview

Professor Higgins (second from left) with Royal Society Te Apārangi staff members

Professor Higgins discussed the opportunities for Royal Society Te Apārangi to help contribute to language revitalisation both within the organisation and the wider community. As an organisation, it is important for people to use te reo in the office and whare. She explained that a language is “caught and not taught”, so it’s important to focus on using kupu that relate to everyday life so that others around you can catch and use these kupu too.

Learning te reo is one pathway to revitalisation of the language, but Professor Higgins explained that championing te reo should not be overlooked. She gave the example of her pāpā, a Pākehā who she says is her family’s biggest supporter of the language despite not being fluent himself. As individuals we have many different opportunities to keep alive and support our country’s first language.


Society staff celebrating the Māori Language Moment

As an organisation, Royal Society Te Apārangi can also help to raise the visibility and change attitudes towards te reo by using it in media and publishing, championing Māori research and researchers, and conveying the importance of everyone’s use or support of te reo. The idea is to shift people along in our changing society so that one day we will have a high-functioning, bi-lingual country where Māori does not have to be celebrated in one week or one month, but will be the everyday norm.

Ka nui ngā mihi ki a koe e te Toiahurewa, Professor Rawinia Higgins for taking the time to kōrero with us. Whakarauora i te reo! We will be sharing more of her insights on how to revitalise te reo in the coming months.

Source: Royal Society Te Apārangi