I had a good time last week, Te wiki o Te Reo Maori, Arohatia Te Reo. I have heard a lot of Reo over the years and more as a result of initiatives like this. I have myself studied it at school, university, at night school. Recently I have been kindly offered courses but I simply can’t learn it that way. I may never be fluent.
So this last week was also very challenging, especially at the Auckland University debate and the Marae Investigates special. I am not known for holding my tongue – its my job to be professionally opinionated – but I was very aware of my own Reo limitations.
I don’t believe that the protection of the Reo is only the responsibility of individuals, whanau or Maori. Government needs to actively help and to remove barriers. Pakeha should feel confident about treating the Reo as their own language too. I am strongly of the view that I have a responsibility to make structural changes for the benefit of the Reo, for iwi, hapu and every New Zealander.
But I can do more. And I should. So, in admittedly small steps I will.
One small step is to make sure my questions are in the Reo, first the primary question and increasingly the supps. I did that last week and again today. It makes me try new words, new phrasing, learn more about pronunciation and emphasis. Another is to use the Reo for all the formal things I have to say, in the House and elsewhere. I can’t hold a conversation in the Reo but I can still use it. And using a little bit everyday in different ways, counts.
I’m nervous. Practically everything I say and do is public and regularly criticised. I will get it wrong often and be embarrassed. But (I hope) it will get easier. And it’s still the right thing to do.