Kia Kaha te reo Māori - Keeping te reo strong in Education and Social Work

Te Wiki o te reo Māori, Māori Language Week, is the perfect time to celebrate and acknowledge the importance of the first official language of Aotearoa.

The 2020 theme, ‘Kia Kaha te reo Māori’ represents the importance of making te reo Māori strong. This message is very meaningful to students, staff and graduates of the Faculty of Education and Social Work, who use te reo Māori as they work to inspire and educate future generations and support Aotearoa communities.

We caught up with some students and graduates to find out what te reo means to them.

Waratah Taogaga - Cultural Director & Master of Education Practice student

What does te reo Māori mean to you?

Te reo Māori is extremely important to me, my whanau, iwi, hapu, and others living in here in Aotearoa. It is a language that we should cherish; it’s a language that we’ve almost lost – it takes one generation to lose te reo Māori and it takes three to make it up. I’m currently the third generation in my whanau, so it’s been an interesting road. Te reo has ancient origins – every single letter and word has an affiliation back to the conception of te ao Māori, so it’s extremely relevant to who we are as people. It’s a beautiful language to be heard and spoken – te reo is one of the most complicated languages to acquire, and it has been handed down through generations.

How do you use te reo Māori in your work?

For work, I’m a Cultural Director which means that I specifically teach te reo Māori, and I also work with students, staff, teachers and members of the community to ensure that te reo Māori is revitalised through creative and innovative techniques, strategies and resources. It comes down te reo Māori and te ao Māori being a way of living – how we implement the universal values that we were handed down through our tūpuna.

What’s your favourite te reo Māori phrase?

My favourite phrase at the moment is “Wāwau ana!” which means “Cray cray!”.

Kellie Bennett - Bachelor of Education (Teaching) Huarahi Māori student

What does te reo Māori mean to you?

Te reo Māori to me is one of the key values of identifying as Māori. Embracing the language by learning, speaking, and sharing with others is what signifies the importance of our language itself. He aha te kai a te rangatira? He kōrero, he kōrero, he kōrero.


How do you use te reo Māori in your studies?

I am studying my Bachelor of Education (Teaching) Huarahi Māori. I use te reo Māori in my study by speaking, writing and developing lesson plans. Using these skills in my study strengthens my fluency and helps me become a successful Māori teacher.

What’s your favourite te reo Māori phrase?

I have a lot but my two favourites are: 

  • “Kia kaha - be strong.” I believe this phrase works in well with the events that have happened in our world thus far.
  • “Awhi mai, awhi atu - when we show care for others they will return that care to us.” This phrase acknowledges the importance of our actions and words we use, and how we must treat others how we would like to be treated.

Johnny Waititi - Head of the Te Reo Māori Faculty, Westlake Boys High School & Master of Educational Leadership student

What does te reo Māori mean to you?

“Ko te reo te mauri o te mana Māori.” The language is the soul of the people. Sir James Henare, tōku tūpuna, said this when the concept of Kohanga Reo was created. The language is the ‘soul of the people’, and te reo Māori is important to me. It was the language I was raised in. It is the most beautiful and expressive language there is. It is the language of my tūpuna and I have a responsibility for the language to live.

How do you use te reo Māori in your work?

I am the Head of the Te Reo Māori Faculty at Westlake Boys High School, so it’s te reo Māori 24/7.

What’s your favourite te reo Māori phrase?

Ko te tino rerenga kōrero ki ahau ko tētahi kiiwaha, ko tēnei: "Tuwhitia te hopo! Be a little anxious, be a little afraid, but have the courage to do it!"

Logan Belk – Bachelor of Social Work student

What does te reo Māori mean to you?

Te reo Māori is important to me because it is one of the many features of Māori culture that define us and a core part of the journey towards understanding Māori ways of living and knowing. As learning the language brings with it this enriched understanding of te ao Māori, I believe such knowledge it is crucial for Aotearoa as a whole to be able to better aid Māori.

How do you use te reo Māori in your studies and work?

I add phrases in subtly during small talk with classmates, coworkers and customers. "Ngā mihi e māra, thanks a lot man." This might catch people off guard, and that's the point. They either get curious, or they get defensive, but either way, using te reo like this brings the thoughts about it to the surface. The more they hear, the less they can ignore it, and the more likely the language is to be learned and shared.

What’s your favourite te reo Māori phrase?

“Mā te wā”, which roughly translates to I'll see you next time. This is possibly warmest farewell you could say to someone. It implies that this is not the last time we will meet, while simultaneously adding that you are looking forward to it.