Opinion: My te reo Māori journey - Sharyn Casey

  • Opinion
  • 16/09/2022
"If we can correct each other on how to say camembert and Möet, I’m pretty sure we can all help each other pronounce Tauranga correctly."
"If we can correct each other on how to say camembert and Möet, I’m pretty sure we can all help each other pronounce Tauranga correctly." Photo credit: Instagram

By Sharyn Casey

Tēnā Koutou katoa

Ko Sharyn Casey tōku ingoa

Nō Timaru ahau.

He Kaimahi ahau mā TORU

Greetings to everyone

My name is Sharyn Casey

I’m from Timaru

I work for THREE.

This is a mihi I learnt a few years ago in a reo lesson with the amazing Eru Paranihi and Wikitoria Day that we had for all the Three presenters and it fed my hunger to start to learn te reo Māori again.

As a kid growing up in Timaru I was obsessed with Māori culture. Learning poi and rakau, being in Kapa Haka for a school show, it inspired me to want to learn how to speak Māori fluently or to at least hold a conversation that it was the first subject option I chose when I went to high school in Christchurch.

Annoyingly, when I moved to Wellington, I got ripped out in my class for making a couple of pronunciation mistakes and I gave up, but I stayed fascinated. 

I'd try to learn from my sister's friends Hoehepa and Junior who were on their te reo journey at the time. Hoehepa gave me my pounamu which I still have and would teach me things but when I moved away from Wellington I didn’t really have anyone to learn from.

Fast forward to being in broadcasting, te reo is super important to me, being one of our official languages I wanted to make sure that we were representing on our radio show at The Edge, starting with making sure our pronunciation was always on point. 

When I started working with Jayden who's from Te Āti Awa (Taranaki) he started to teach me again, we incorporated reo into more breaks, every top of hour and where we could, it felt right and I loved learning.

When my oldest son Tyson was born, my husband Bryce and I were adamant our children would ALWAYS use correct Māori pronunciation, if the wrong pronunciation is used around him, we gently correct and let me tell you, if my 4-year-old can say Taupō properly, anyone can, so I encourage you to give it a go.

A few years ago, I got over my fear of trying and making mistakes when Stacey Morrison who has given me so much of her time over the years to help me told me "as long as you’re trying, it’s better than ignoring it" it made me feel brave again.

Since then I've picked so many of my friends' brains and ya know what, if you ask for help, someone will always give you a hand - in life, but also when learning te reo Māori.

When I was asked to be part of this campaign, I was a bit nervous, I knew people I strongly admire like Oriini Kaipara were involved and got into my head of letting people down by accidentally butchering their reo - but then, I got over myself and threw myself into it.

When it came to filming, I was sweating like a beast, over-talking nervously and then Oriini and Wikitoria walked into the room we were getting ready in and it quickly turned into one of the best hours of my career. 

I got to learn from two wāhine toa that I fan girl over so hard and they were beyond encouraging, kind and excited to see people giving it ago.

What I’m trying to say is, even if you feel scared, even if your brain says you’re gonna stuff it up, tell your brain to piss off and try.

You can learn on a course, through kids' books, through Scotty and Stacey Morrison’s books, podcasts, there's so many ways to learn the beautiful native language of Aotearoa, so don’t miss out, through yourself in and if you don’t get it right, that’s ok - But give it a go!

I mean, if we can correct each other on how to say camembert and Möet, I’m pretty sure we can all help each other pronounce Tauranga correctly, right?

Ngā Mihi to all the people that have helped me along the way.

Stacey, Kara, Wiki, Eru, K'Lee, Jayden, Oriini, Hoehepa, Junior and more, I really appreciate you, your patience and your reo.