Nayland student’s month-long te reo Māori mission

Xanthe Banks
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Nayland College’s Xanthe Banks opted to speak only te reo Māori for the entire month of September to celebrate Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori 2021. Here, she shares her experience and story in her first language and in English.
Xanthe Banks

When and why did you make the decision to speak only te reo Māori for the month? 

Kua mahia e au pēnei i ngā tau e rua kua hipa mai. Ko tēnei te wā tuatoru. I whakatau au i tērā tau, ka pīrangi au ki te mahi anō. Ko te kaupapa kei te whāia e au, ko Mahuru Māori. Ko te pūtake o Mahuru Māori te whakarauoratanga o te reo Māori. Ko te tikanga me kōrero reo Māori anake mō te roanga o te marama o Mahuru.

I have done this for the previous two years, this is my third year. I decided last year that I wanted to do it again this year. The kaupapa that I am following is called Mahuru Māori. The main goal of Mahuru Māori is the revitalisation of te reo Māori and how it does that is by people choosing to only speak Māori for the whole of September.

What has the month been like so far? 

He pai. Pai ake i tērā tau, nō te mea he pai ake ngā kupu whakahoki i tēnei tau. Kua mahi kē au i mua, nō reira e marama kē ana te nuinga i te ahuatanga o tōku mahi. Nā tēnei, ko ngā tāngata e whakahē ana ki tōku mahi, ka karo i ahau. Nō reira ko te nuinga o ngā tāngata kōrero ai au, e whakaae ana ki tōku nei mahi.

It’s been good, the responses I have received have been better than last year. Because I’ve done it before a lot of people understand what I’m doing, so what happens is those people that don’t really agree with what I’m doing tend to just avoid me. Therefore the majority of the people I talk to are supportive.

How do you work around talking to non te reo speakers at school?

E ahei ana ahau ki te tuhi ki te reo Pākehā, nō reira i homai tētahi o ōku Kaiako Māori i tētahi papa mā iti mai i tōna akomanga, kia ahei i au te tuhituhi i te wā tē taea e tētahi te marama i ahau. Ka kawea tēnei e au huri rauna i te kura.

I allow myself to write in English. One of my Māori teachers gave me a small whiteboard from her classroom, so when someone really can’t understand me I will write what I’m saying. I carry this with me all around school.

Do you have friends at school who are also fluent?

Kei reira ētahi, engari kāhore tētahi o ōku hoa pūmau, ngā mea ka kitea i waho o te kura.

There are a few at school that are fluent, but none of my close friends that I hang out with out of school.

What other barriers have you come up against?

Kāhore ētahi e pīrangi ki te ngana ki te marama i ahau, ka mea mai “tuhi noa”. He uaua hoki te whakaatu i ōku whakaaro ētahi o te wā. Hei tauira, kei te ako mātou mō te tiriti i tētahi akomanga. Nui ōku whakaaro mō tēnei kaupapa ki pīrangi au ki te tohatoha atu, engari he uaua te whakamarama atu i ōku whakaaro. He uaua ake noa te kōrero tahi me ngā tāngata.

Some people just don’t want to try to understand me and they cut me off and tell me to just write it down. It’s also difficult to express my thoughts sometimes. In one classroom we are learning about the treaty, which is something I think is very important and I would normally be active in giving my thoughts. But it’s more difficult to express myself in a way where people can understand me. It’s also just more difficult to have a conversation with someone.

Have you had a positive response?

Āe tino. Kei te tino akiaki ngā tāngata i tōku mahi. Tokomaha ngā tāngata e kī ana he tino kaha au ki te mahi pēnei. Nō te mea kua mahi kē au, ko te nuinga o ngā tāngata e kōrero ana ki ahau, ko ngā tāngata a tautoko ana. Ko tētahi mea pai, ka kōrero Māori mai tētahi o ōku Kaihautū Pahi. Kāhore tōku pahi kura, tētahi pahi nō NBus. Engari ka kōrero Māori ia ki te katoa, i te tau katoa.

I’ve had a very positive response. Lots of people are very supportive and tell me how strong I am to do this. Because I’ve done this before, most of the people that talk to me are really positive. I have a bus driver that speaks Māori, on one of the public buses, not the school bus. But she speaks Māori to everyone all year around anyhow.

What has been the most difficult aspect? How have you found conversing in shops etc?

Ko te mea uaua rawa, ko te kōrero ki ngā tāngata tē taea te marama. Me panoni au i ōku kupu kia māmā ake mōna. Ina ka taea e au te whakaatu horopaki, ahakoa kāhore ia e marama ana i ngā kupu, pea ka tata te marama ki tōku e pīrangi nei. Nui ngā wā ka hoatu e au tētahi pepa whakamarama me tōku kōrero, ki roto i te reo Pākehā, ki tētahi ā ka kī au i tōku kōrero ki roto i te reo Māori. Enagri kāhore te nuinga e aro ana ki tōku reo Māori, e ngana ana rānei ki te marama, ka tōtika ki tāku tuhinga Pākehā.

A really difficult thing is trying to talk to people when they can’t understand. I try to change what I’m saying so it’s easier to understand. If I can get them to understand the context of what I’m saying, they can get closer to understanding what I’m trying to say, even if they don’t understand the words I’m using. It’s also a bit frustrating when I give people a card that explains what I’m doing, along with what I’m trying to say written in English on a bit of paper, they will often ignore what’s coming out of my mouth and not even try to engage.

Tell me about your te reo Māori journey? When did you begin learning the language?

Ko te reo tōku reo tuatahi. I haere au ki tētahi Puna Reo, kātahi ka haere au ki tētahi kura kaupapa Māori. I te wā i hunuku ki Whakatū, i haere au ki Te Pouahi ki Te Kura Pokapū o Whakatū mō haurua o te tau. Whai muri i tēnā i uru au ki roto i ngā akomanga auraki.

Te reo is my first language. I went to a Puna Reo, a Māori pre-school, and then from there to a full immersion Kura Kaupapa Māori. When we shifted to Nelson I spent half a year in the bi-lingual unit Te Pouahi at Nelson Central. Since then all of my classrooms have been mainstream.

Tell me about your heritage, your iwi and important role models in your life?

He uri au nō Ngāti Rārua, Rangitāne, Ngāti Kuia me Ngāti Apa ki te Rā Tō. Ko tōku Pāpā tētahi kua mahi kaha ki te ako i te reo Māori, kia whakaako i ahau, kia akiaki i ahau, kia whakanui i tōku taha Māori hoki.

I am from Ngāti Rārua, Rangitāne, Ngāti Kuia and Ngāti Apa ki te Rā Tō. My father taught himself te reo Māori so that he could teach me, to encourage me and to make sure I understand how important my Māori heritage is.

Why is it important that te reo is preserved and celebrated?

Ko te reo Māori te reo tūturu o Aotearoa, nō reira ka tika te whakanui i a ia ki runga i tōna whenua. Ko te reo te mauri o te mana Māori.

Māori is the original language of this land, so it is appropriate that we celebrate it here in Aotearoa. I’ll finish with a whakataukī. Ko te reo te mauri o te mana Māori, the Māori language is the essence of what it means to be Māori.

Thanks to the team at NelsonApp and the Banks whānau for allowing us to share this awesome story. Written by Jonty Dine. The original story can be found at https://nelsonapp.co.nz/news/nayland-students-month-long-te-reo-maori-mission