It's not often that a 2 1/2-year-old gets to tutor a student who has 50 more summers on the clock but when it comes to learning Te Reo Maori in my whare (home) my tutor is my daughter Waiwhakaata Honfleur.
Sure there are certain concessions credits I can earn in sharing sentences with my one-on-one tutor that the ordinary struggling student may find difficult to secure, such as a bit of bribery with a Milo botbot. And an extra carrot to take down to Frankie the horsey horsey, who shares a nearby paddock with his cousin cow cow works wonders when it comes to waiata (song) but, mostly, the magic of te reo Maori from daughter to dad is on tap 24/7 and not a macron to be found anywhere.
National Maori language week is July 23-29 and for many it will pass with about as much afterthought as a Taranaki tornado, mainly because it only matters to those in its path.
Many local businesses have really embraced the theme of Maori language week (Tourism - Tapoi) and have given their staff the chance to learn the language of the long white cloud. But not everyone finds it comfortable or cool to korero (speak) Maori. In fact, some will say no way will I ever pronounce Maori correctly because to them it has always been Marry just like Towerwronga will never be pronounced the culturally correct way of Tauranga (Toerrrronga).
For many Maori it is a big ask to ask for help in learning the mother tongue of their tipuna (ancestors) and for others like me it is a challenge to add Maori to the other languages I can casually converse in. I also find it fascinating how this language of the long white cloud paints pictures with words very much like the language I learned on my sojourns to Bali. When we consider that the word rima and lima both mean the number five in Balinese and Maori as do ika and ikan for fish, then one can speculate that a couple of waka might have taken a right hand turn on the way here from Hawaiiki and carried on up to Kuta Beach in Bali.
One of the interesting assumptions made by Maori speakers is they have a deeper insight into their cultural inheritance than their non-speaking whanaunga (relatives). In some cases this is very true and one only has to sit in on the whaikorero (dissertations) given by our senior kaumatua speakers here in Tauranga Moana to be in total awe of their deep understanding of tikanga Maori.
But for my two bobs' worth the level of Maori spoken as a medium for conversation is a lot less than many may concede.
The old adage, talking it is one thing but walking, is the true test of tikanga. At one end of the linguistic level you have my mother's generation who were punished for speaking their native language and who are still somewhat gunshy to give it a go.
Then you have the born again Maori who have reconnected to their roots and want the world to know about their cultural conversion, or as John Tamahere calls them, The Language Mafia. These are the Maori speakers who I find the hardest to connect with because unlike my daughter, who can connect with her gift of korero, they want to hold on to all of their toys and not share them.
Most times I find a few well constructed sentences in French, Japanese or Balinese usually puts the conversation or lack of it into context.
But the most endearing words of te reo Maori (the Maori language) come from our little Kohanga reo tamariki (pre school kids) who have unlocked this treasure trove of taonga (gifts), one of them being the language. These tamariki have no preconceived issues of who can and who cannot speak Maori, nor do they have any baggage from bygone injustices that extinguish any spark of genuine interest from fellow free thinking citizens - who want to understand the culture of their country.
For me this is the future voice for Maori and they are growing longer and stronger into what some may call a LUNG or large unnatural grouping.
This is not to be confused by the in vogue term in Maoridom at the moment of LNG or Large Natural Groupings.
The tribal trenches of Maori go back a very long way, in fact they go back a lot longer than their written language, which as Wiremu Capamagian pointed out in his recent letter to the Editor, "was introduced by a Pakeha missionary".
So find your voice and have a kapai korero this Maori language week and unlock your aura with the key of kia ora.
Pai marire (Peace)