Te reo Māori teacher Anton Matthews says the language is here to stay. Photo: RNZ/Conan Young.
It’s Māori Language Week, which means you’ve no doubt seen a plethora of social media posts celebrating te reo, and you may also have seen an increase in racist rhetoric in the comments section.
Te Reo teacher Anton Matthews says he used to get angry reading the offensive comments, but now he feels aroha.
“It used to get under my skin but now I feel a bit of sympathy because it’s coming from a place of fear. They have always been in control and part of the majority and never had their identity challenged in any way but now they are having to let other people play in the sandbox.”
Te reo Māori was here to stay, he said.
“It’s not going anywhere; it’s an official language and what we are seeing today is the momentum that has built up over the last fifty years.”
The first national Māori Language Day, on 14 September 1972, was marked by the presentation of a petition on the steps of Parliament.
More than 30,000 people signed, calling for te reo Māori to be taught in schools.
Matthews said there was nothing to be afraid of.
“English [is] probably one of the most complex languages in the world while te reo is quite simple to learn.”
Matthews, who has a degree in te reo Māori and Māori indigenous studies, said the language was experiencing an exponential explosion.
“Every year for the last five years it becomes more popular.”
People needed to learn to accept it and not to let the negative comments affect them, he said.
“I think [those opposed to the use of te reo Māori] are the minority – they are just a very loud minority and like to make their presence known.”
Matthews said while a lot of people did not like change, he had noticed most who were open to it saw it as an important part of our cultural fabric.
“We love the haka, we love pounamu, all of that requires te reo Māori.”
Today, 30 percent of New Zealanders can speak some reo Māori, with a quarter of Māori now able to speak it as a first language.