Learning Te Reo Māori about embracing tikanga, 'giving it a go' - language advocates

Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori celebrates the learning of Māori language, and as more Kiwis embrace it by giving it a go, it's become increasingly accepted that to do so, you also need to embrace tikanga - Māori values and beliefs.

If Te Reo is the vehicle, then Tikanga is the fuel that drives it.

Observing Māori culture has been a requisite in government departments for some time, but it's the private sector where massive change is now happening.

Vodafone New Zealand now has a companywide policy honouring the principles of te Tiriti o Waitangi. It's Te Reo classes that are also a first step towards embedding Māori language and philosophies into the business.

Precious Clark, director of Maurea Consulting LTD , said learning Māori is first and foremost about having fun.

"It's about giving people the tools so they can pronounce our words correctly and it's about giving them the confidence to give it a go," she said.

It's deep transformational change - language coupled with an understanding of where Tangata Whenua have come from and what their issues are.

"The reality is corporates employ most of our people, and if you want to get change, go there. Go there to create the change and support these corporates to try to get it right," she said.

But getting it right isn't always easy. Even Air New Zealand, which proudly displays the Koru and supports the use of Te Reo, caused outrage by rejecting a potential employee for having Tā Moko - a policy since reversed.

And when a Canadian brewery made a beer with New Zealand hops, it called the Pale Ale Huruhuru. The strict translation means feather, but it's more commonly used to describe pubic hair. 

After being called out by language watchdog Te Hamua Nikora, the brewery apologised.

Ngāti Whātua Orākei Trust poutaki Taiaha Hawke said he's an optimist and would much rather be giving people cuddles than hidings.

The balance comes in accepting that mistakes will be made while encouraging genuine and ethical use of Te Reo.

"Whoever can help rejuvenate the reo, whoever can help to promote the reo, whoever can support the growth of te reo Māori, whoever can give a hand, we should welcome them with open arms," he said.

It's an embrace that's needed. There are countless stories of individuals being mocked or even abused for learning and using Te Reo.

When Clark was asked if she was worried she was setting Māori learners up to then be knocked down or ridiculed, she said her role is to help them with that.

"[My role is to] encourage them and highlight to them that they are likely to be confronted by their own family and their own friends around the journey that they are taking."

Corporate New Zealand, at least, is changing, and realises that if you want to engage with Māori, you've got to know something about them.

"I've had organisations say that's our level of commitment to this, this is as important as health and safety. So the tide is turning and if you're not going to jump on the waka then expect to get left behind," Clark said.