'No one's going to do a haka if you get it wrong'

The chief executive of the Māori Language Commission says making an effort in the pronunciation of te reo Māori is important - but no one's going to get angry if you get it wrong.

"No one's going to do a haka and jump up and down about it if you are trying," says Ngahiwi Apanui. "The important thing is you're giving it a go."

Mr Apanui says New Zealanders are now using Māori more, but efforts to pronounce the language correctly remain crucial.

"Pronunciation is always going to be hugely important," he says. "If Māori all went around pronouncing English incorrectly, people wouldn't understand a thing we're saying."

Mr Apanui says the problem is an adult one - children have no problem learning Māori and its correct pronunciation.

"Children pick up te reo Māori easily. Those who have the most trouble are adult learners, and that's the case with every language, whether you're learning French, Spanish, or whatever."

In a new book, Killing Te Reo Māori: An Indigenous Language Facing Extinction, AUT history professor Paul Moon claims that our approach to te reo Māori - in particular forcing children to study it at school, and our obsession with the correct pronunciation, is hindering the language's survival.

But Mr Apanui says he's seen first-hand how New Zealanders' efforts with te reo Māori are paying off.

"If you look at the efforts broadcasters are making, there has been a huge impact. People like the fact that we're saying 'Toe-po' for Taupō. These things are important - they show the nation's commitment to Te Reo."

In resonse to Prof Moon's claims yesterday, many Twitter users took to the platform using the hashtag #letssharegoodtereostories.

Mr Apanui says no one should be put off by fear of being growled at.

"For all those people learning Te Reo, nobody's going to come charging at you for getting it wrong. The more you learn, the better you'll do. Just give it a go."