By Jennifer Humphreys
Trade Minister Tim Groser has revealed his personal view that learning te reo should be compulsory in primary schools.
He made the comments on The Nation, when talking about New Zealand's growing relationship with China.
The minister said being able to speak and write in Maori would make it easier to learn other languages later in life.
Tim Groser concedes his idea is unusual for a National Party minister.
“My personal view is that we should be teaching Maori to every 5-year-old child,” he says.
“This is turning the usual pakeha argument on its head because what I think should happen is you should introduce very young children from New Zealand to the idea of bi-culturalism and more than one language. Then they will be able to learn other languages as their personal circumstances fit."
The minister for trade believes there are endless business opportunities with China, and languages could hold the key.
Children who become familiar with te reo at an early age could then master Chinese, Mandarin and any language they want in a move that could open doors for travel and work. While it's only an idea at the moment, it's gaining support.
“There's no question that people who are inducted into bi-lingualism at an early age, in early childhood, they have an intuitive understanding of languages and they have no problem learning a third and fourth language," says Maori academic Ranginui Walker.
Mr Groser says it's not just important to learn new languages, but new cultures as well.
“Once you've accustomed your mind to a different cultural space, you can learn,” he says.
Tim Groser says it's not his role to try to convince the Prime Minister of the idea, but he may also have a few more people to persuade.
New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters told 3 News it would never work because parents wouldn't buy into it and there are more important languages for children to learn.
source: newshub archive