By: Ophelia Buckleton
Top chef Martin Bosley is among Kiwis flocking to learn te reo Māori.
But education providers are struggling to keep up with demand, with one course juggling a waiting list of more than 330 people.
Bosley applied for a beginners te reo Māori course at Wellington High School Community Education Centre (CEC) in January – but with classes full he was put on a waiting list, which he was still on this week.
“It wasn’t like I just stopped at Wellington High School. I looked at as many [classes] as I could in the Wellington area and they were all full,” said Bosley.
The award-winning chef, who ran a restaurant under his own name on Wellington’s waterfront for many years, was one of 335 people on the waiting list for the course at CEC according to director Nigel Sutton.
Bosley decided he wanted to learn te reo Māori in December, after an “amazing” first trip to Waitangi and being surrounded by the language while working for Māori food and beverage company Kono.
“It was kind of when all that rubbish blew up with Don Brash and Guyon Espiner,” said Bosley.
Former National and Act party leader Brash said in an interview with Radio New Zealand in December, that he did not like listening to Morning Report presenter Guyon Espiner “spouting on” in Māori on the programme.
“We’re being forced to listen to these sentences by Guyon Espiner without any trace of translation provided…I have no idea what he is saying,” he said at the time.
Speaking to the Herald on Sunday, Brash said he didn’t have a problem with people wanting to learn te reo Māori.
“Lots of people do and that’s fine.
“What I was objecting to last year was Radio New Zealand’s tendency to use quite a lot of Māori on what is otherwise an English language broadcast and it was unhelpful to those of us who don’t speak te reo, like most of the country.”
Bosley said it was “fantastic” that so many people were interested in learning the language.
“On the one hand you have got people saying it’s dying, we don’t need it…but I just think that’s obviously not true.”
Of the more than 700 courses offered at CEC over the four-term year, beginners te reo Māori was most popular according to centre director Sutton.
“The demand is unprecedented,” he said.
The centre had a record 10 beginners te reo Māori classes this term, despite initial plans to offer six. There were about 18 adults in each class.
And, there were plans to put on more in term two.
There were seven beginners classes in term one last year, with more added in the year.
“Basically it seems like everyone in the country wants to get a foundational understanding of te reo now,” said Sutton.
“I think it’s really exciting. I think it shows New Zealand maturing in a way that…many people hoped to see. It shows a true bicultural acceptance that I think was lacking previously.”
A beginners te reo Māori course at CEC was $75 for New Zealand citizens and residents, and $175 for everyone else.
And CEC wasn’t the only place that had seen an increase in demand.
Enrolments for semester one te reo Māori papers, across all levels, at Auckland University of Technology (AUT) had more than doubled, from about 339 in 2017 to around 691 this year.
AUT also had a waiting list for semester one te reo Māori papers.
Lecturer in te reo Māori at AUT, Hēmi Kelly said the use of te reo Māori in mainstream media had helped create interest in the language.
He said the majority of people enrolled in the papers at AUT were not Māori.
“So there is this interest within the wider community regardless of ethnic backgrounds or cultural backgrounds or work backgrounds. We see young people [and] old people. We see lawyers, teachers, doctors, mothers and fathers coming to learn.”
Beginner and intermediate te reo Māori papers were free at AUT.
However, factors including a shortage of teachers meant AUT and CEC could not cater to the demand for classes.
“We wish we could fulfil the demand. We really do wish that we had the tutors to be able to give everyone who wants the opportunity an opportunity,” said Sutton from CEC.
Sutton said he was working hard to get more tutors and grow the programme.
Māori Language Commission chief executive Ngahiwi Apanui said there was a growing interest in learning the language among both Māori and others.
Apanui said some people wanted to become fluent, while others wanted to learn simple greetings, improve their pronunciation or be able to pick up what people were saying in speeches, greetings, online or in the media.
“The Māori language needs to be used widely to survive as a living language and as an ordinary means of communication. We welcome people from all backgrounds in their efforts to learn a little and use a little, and to learn more and use more.”
Source: NZ Herald