Today, (Monday, September 13) marks the starts of Māori Language Week (Te Wiki O Te Reo Māori), a dedicated awareness week to help encourage better understanding and uptake of te reo throughout New Zealand.
When it comes to businesses, more and more are incorporating te reo into their everyday activities and action, and it’s great to see an increased uptake of one of our official languages.
To celebrate Te Wiki O Te Reo Māori, and get a better understanding of how businesses can bring te reo Māori into the workplace, we asked Riann Umaga-Marshall (director at Convex Accounting) to share her thoughts on the subject.
Last Wednesday morning we held our monthly Advisory Board Meeting here at Convex. I raised the question around, “How our team was feeling about te reo Māori being integrated more and more into our business?”
The answer from my mostly non-Māori colleagues was resoundingly positive, but, of course, with a few things to work on in terms of how we make our environment a safe one for te reo to flourish. I was really proud and encouraged in that moment, and the feedback our Board had will help to propel us forward in our journey as a business to make te reo Māori beautifully normal.
Aotearoa – New Zealand has a history that it has not yet faced, addressed, or overcome. This is fact and we all must acknowledge this so we can work on healing and moving forward as a country. Okay, that’s the deep side – let’s flip things to a more positive note.
This week is about encouraging all New Zealanders to give our language a go. It’s beautiful, metaphorical and with such deep whakapapa (genealogy) that it can inspire us all to be great.
Learning and using te reo Māori in our businesses is important for us all as we move into the future. Being able to see, hear and feel the language in our daily activities can help us all gain deeper understanding of ourselves and our place in Aotearoa and the world.
The effects of learning and using the language will flow through to those you interact with from any ethnicity or background. If we are all proud to be New Zealanders, we must be proud of our roots and the indigenous culture that differentiates us out there in the world.
To help you get started on your own journey with te reo Māori, here are a few ways we are building te reo Māori me ona tikanga (language and customs) into our business:
Translating our values: Earlier this year we did a revamp of our company values. To me, this felt like an easy way to bring te reo into our business from a place that needs to be embedded in our staff and, over time, also with our clients. If you don’t have anyone on your team or within your network that could do the translations for you, I would encourage you to seek paid translating services to get it right.
Daily phrases: We are lucky enough to have staff on hand that are speakers of te reo (in varying levels of fluency) that are able to put together phrases or terms we can use in our conversations with each other during the day. These are sent out to our team via our messenger app and team members are encouraged to reach out if they want a hand with pronunciation.
Email greetings: Having easy to use greetings for emails is a real simple way to start using te reo and if nothing else showing your audience that you care about the native language of our country.
Learning place names: Encouraging your team (or yourself) to learn one Māori place name a week. If you’re a local business that only operates in one city, learn the different area names. Knowing where you are from is a huge part of Māori culture and knowing the space around you is another way to develop a Māori world view.
Have fun: Have fun with the language (definitely not make fun), but find ways to make learning the language fun. From little challenges, like doing a line or two of your pepeha (personal introduction) in team meetings, to learning to say and pronounce the longest place name in New Zealand.
These are some of the ways we are trying to encourage the use of te reo Māori in our business, but if you’re keen to really jump in I’d encourage you to find a course nearby that you can go to in person. Learning kānohi ki te kānohi (face to face) cannot be beat.
Like anything worth doing, starting out or starting again on a te reo Māori journey is a challenge. Time, pronunciation, shame, embarrassment – along with a raft of other challenges – are all barriers to giving it a go. The language was stripped from our people through colonisation, and it’s taken years of blood, sweat and tears to get it here. It’s up to us all to grab hold of the baton and build on this legacy, for our own benefit, but more so for the future generations of Aotearoa.