My annual anxiety as a monolingual dinosaur

Khylee Quince
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Another September rolls around and Khylee Quince’s anxiety as a non-reo-speaking Māori is in over-drive.

Pride and excitement at the increasing profile of Mahuru Māori and Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori clash head-on with the whakama, shame and frustration of being a monolingual dinosaur.

I’m in that in-between generation – two generations removed from first-language speakers, with vague memories of my grandmother speaking the reo to her relations when we ventured north for school holidays. Kohanga reo and kura kaupapa schools were a few years behind my time. 

In the mainstream schools I attended in the 1970s and 80s, the reo was not taught, other than by correspondence for the one tenacious Māori girl in my year at high school. I think of her often and kick myself for not joining her, while I ploughed away in my inexplicable journey to learn French. I’ve often imagined she’s now a fluent speaker, with children who’ve been bilingual since birth.

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