Mōrena! It’s Māori Language Week and I am really happy to finally move our spelling into the 21st Century by ensuring we spell Māori words correctly. From now on, the tohutō (macron) will be used in all Māori words, meaning Wanaka becomes Wānaka, and Hawea becomes Hāwea.
According to the Māori Language Commission, (Te Taura Whiri o te Reo Māori), “The modern Māori alphabet has both ‘long’ and ‘short’ vowels (a,e,i,o,u and ā,ē,ī,ō,ū). In written Māori the difference can change the meaning: kākā means ‘parrot’; kakā is to be red hot and kaka is a garment.” So it may be small, but the macron matters.
It was the naming of the new school Te Kura O Take Kārara that sparked this decision. If young children are taught to respect and learn te reo Māori from a young age, then there is a greater chance they will grow into bilingual, or at least more respectful, multicultural citizens. But to absorb this at a cellular level, they need to see it in adults and mentors — they need to see us pronouncing words properly, and spelling them correctly.
Personally, I have struggled with pronouncing place names correctly because to be honest, I feel like a bit of an idiot. It feels strange. My mouth doesn’t do it easily and I feel a bit try-hard. But sitting with that discomfort gently in my lap, I press on and give it a go anyway and if someone thinks I sound like a virtue-signalling, liberal try-hard then that’s on them, not me. This is not about being ‘politically correct’ — just, ‘correct’.
Admittedly, none of the staff at the Wānaka Sun speaks te reo Māori and we know we may make mistakes as we make this transition, but we’d rather try to do the right thing and get it wrong, than sit safely doing nothing. But, if you spot any mistakes, please let us know!