Is the obsession with proper pronunciation killing Te Reo?

Morning Talk 16/01/2018

A controversial new book titled Killing Te Reo Māori says New Zealand’s efforts to save the Māori language are condemning it to extinction.

Mark talks with former RadioLive alumnus and current Associate Maori Development Minister Willie Jackson on his thoughts of the state of Maori language and if the pronunciation police are hindering its survival. 

Prof Paul Moon, author of Killing Te Reo Māori: An Indigenous Language Facing Extinction, argues that some of our approaches to saving the language are backfiring. These efforts, according to the book, could result in the extinction of the language.

“[The author] is not far off the mark,” Mr Jackson says.

Mr Jackson explains that part of the problem falls on education efforts that intimidate learners to speak the language, whether they are Māori or not.

"People get so dogmatic about it," he says. "'You must pronounce it this way, you must say it like that.' Those things serve to damage the language more than save it."

“If it’s hard for Māori, how hard is it going to be for Pakeha?” he asks.

Mr Jackson calls on Mark and his peers to learn the language, saying that it’s people like him that can make a difference.

“We need advocates,” he says.

“You’ve been around forever, Sainso,” says Mr Jackson. “And your [Te] Reo is pathetic.”

Listen to the full interview with Willie Jackson above.

Morning Talk with Mark Sainsbury, weekdays from 9am-noon on RadioLIVE and streaming live to the ROVA app on Android and iPhone.