Take a left turn to Māori Language Week

Cover: What if we learn Te Reo to delay Alzheimer's?

What if we learnt Te Reo to delay Alzheimer’s?

That’s what the slogan on the bus in front of me said. I felt a range of emotions:

  • First, I smiled – it’s the new “What if” advertising campaign for Canterbury University – and it’s clever.
  • Next, I felt despair about all the world languages that we have lost (one every 14 days on average according to an excellent article in the July 2012 National Geographic). Could a bus slogan have saved them?
  • Finally, resignation set in. After all, why not? There’s going to be a lot of old Kiwis soon and if we all spoke Te Reo and kept our marbles while we’re at it, how great would that be?

All that emotion and I was only half way to work.

This week is Māori Language Week, so it is a good time to do a bit of reckoning. I’ve lived here for 12 years now and I’ve just made a list of all the Māori words I know. It’s embarrassing – let’s just say that if you took the number 12, multiplied it by 3, found the square root of that and added 14 you’d be close (I’m hoping you will have given up long before you get there). Pathetic.

Everyone knows that being multilingual is hugely advantageous. Most of us also know that we have to keep active and keep learning as we get older. In fact, Alzheimer’s can be staved off if you do even one new thing every day. My new thing is to write with my left hand. Up till now my left arm has just hung there sporting a few bits of bling on its tips – it’s high time it came to the party. But left-hand writing is really hard. I can feel the right hemisphere of my brain screaming for mercy.

Then, as I overtook the bus and pulled into Shirley Library, it came to me. How about if I learnt Te Reo writing only with my left hand?

Ehara mai!*

* Don’t know what Ehara mai means?  You can find the answer on this page of basic phrases from Kōrero Māori.

2 thoughts on “Take a left turn to Māori Language Week

  1. CharlieBean 26 July 2012 / 4:30 pm

    I’ve been attempting to haphazardly pick up te reo by taking as many opportunities to actually say it as I can. My favourite bit is the feel of the new sounds on my tongue. It’s a very nice sensation really. Almost like enjoying the sensation of a yummy new lolly. Quite tactile which was a little unexpected for me but then when I thought about it, of course! The expectations of language learning being just a mind exercise were pleasantly dispelled for me. Looking forward to my next te reo mission, happy to share the experience:)

    • robertafsmith 26 July 2012 / 5:17 pm

      I like the roll of it as well. Sometimes I just tune in to Maori TV or radio and let it wash over me. What I need now is a maori cartoon series!

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