Young people are more likely to speak te reo Māori than their older counterparts, studies reveal.
In 2013 only 3.7% of the Aotearoa population said they could use conversational te reo Māori. 18% of these speakers were Māori and only 0.63% non-Māori. This figure is slightly lower than the 2006 figure of 4% overall speakers.
While such figures are of concern to te reo Māori advocates, there is cause for optimism given the increasing number of young people engaging with the language.
Studies have shown that New Zealanders under 30 years of age are more likely to speak te reo Māori than those over 30. Lagging behind both groups, the older age group of 65+ years are well under the national speaking average for speaking te reo at 2.5%.
Such a disparity has a number of contributing factors including increasing recognition of te reo Māori in mainstream education, the growth of kura kauapapa and kohanga reo and the slow decline of colonial attitudes which sought to downplay the importance of maintaining the native language of Aotearoa.
Despite evidence that young people are taking up the challenge of carrying te reo Māori forward the stubbornly low uptake of the language continues to be cause for concern.
Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori is just one of the initiatives created to encourage New Zealanders to embrace the taonga of te reo Māori. The week has been part of the Aotearoa calendar for 41 years and aims to get more New Zealanders of all backgrounds speaking more Māori words and phrases “every day and week of the year”.
Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori plays a lead role in the campaign by setting the date, theme, and look of the campaign.
This year’s theme is sports. As 74% of New Zealanders engage in sports, including 68% of Māori, event organisers hope to engage with the public in a way that is enjoyable, educational and applicable in everyday life.
Ambassadors for the 2016 campaign include ex-Silver Fern Jenny-May Clarkson, former All Black Andrew Mehrtens and Matariki Te Waitā Award for Sport winner Nehe Milner-Skudder. The sporting trio will be joined by child star Julian Dennison of Hunt for the Wilderpeople.
Te Wiki o te Reo Māori will begin with the single largest event Te Taura Whiri has organised, a July 4 parade in Wellington. The parade will incorporate more than 14 floats and 4,000 individuals and will make its way from parliament house to Te Papa, where kapa haka, speeches, games, and giveaways will be provided for both adults and children.
Te Wiki o Te Reo Maori begins on July 4 and concludes with a July 10 concert finale with performances from Te Awanui Reeder and Rob Ruha.