Ko te whare tū ki te koraha
he kai mā te ahi; ko te whare
tū ki pā tūwatawata
he tohu nō te rangatira
A solitary house will succumb
to a fire; a house in the stockaded
pā is a sign of a chief
Kei aku iti, kei aku rahi, tēnā koutou katoa
Ko wai au? Ko Jade ahau. Ko wahine Māori ahau. He uri au no te kāwai rangatira.
Who am I? I am Jade. I am wahine Māori. I am descended from a line of great chiefs.
Te Ao Māori is founded on a rich tradition of oral history. As Māori, we have always been sharers of knowledge. Whakataukī or proverbs are drawn from experiences, aiming to provide meaning and make sense of the world, gifted from those before us.
The whakataukī above speaks of courage and the need to work together. This is what we need to start integrating Te Reo Māori into everyday communications. One person alone cannot make these changes, but together we can build Te Reo into our communications and lead with courage.
Keep it real
Using Te Reo Māori in your communications should be based on respect, inclusion and connection. Always analyse the reason for adding in Te Reo Māori - is this tokenistic or inclusive?
We see performative use of culture in many ways, from influencers using social justice movements to sell products, or companies appropriating culture to appear more inclusive without putting in the mahi.
To avoid this, immerse yourself and your team in Te Ao Māori to understand the culture more. Create a culturally responsible and inclusive environment to tautoko Te Reo Māori.
This also extends to your Māori colleagues; always ask if they would like to take part in Māori focused initiatives or opportunities. Just like pākeha and tauiwi, we are on our own journey with Te Reo Māori and might not be keen to sing the waiata or do the karakia.
It can be intimidating using Te Reo Māori, you don’t want to get it wrong or appear disrespectful. The easiest way to start is with small, everyday words in your team's chat, emails or social posts.
Try swapping out the below each day to normalise it:
Hello – Kia ora
Good morning - Mōrena / Ata Mārie
New Zealand – Aotearoa
Auckland - Tāmaki Makaurau
Coffee - Kāwhē
Email - Īmēra
No - Kāo
Yes - Āe
We’re all in this together - He waka eke noa
You and your team can also create a challenge to learn the 100 Māori words everyone should know.
Be ready for racism
Unfortunately, not everyone is willing to embrace Te Reo Māori. Social media can be difficult to navigate, but there are plenty of companies who have prepared responses for racism and the trolls.
One of the best-known examples is Air New Zealand, who light heartedly teased a customer when they didn’t like the use of Te Reo. Other brands like Spark, 2degrees and Vodafone banded together on social media to support each other.
Prepare responses that fit in with your brand and tone of voice on social media. Encourage further learning, but remain confident in your Te Reo usage. Remember, Te Reo Māori is one out of two official languages of Aotearoa, the other being NZSL.
We are all time-poor these days, but practice is the best thing to normalise Te Reo in your everyday life, spilling into anything you write. Some tips to help integrate practice:
All of these are fun, easy ways to involve Te Reo in your life without spending time hunched over a textbook.
Always try to practice your pronunciation, using songs is a great option and the Te Aka app has a sound function so you can hear the correct pronunciation.
A note from someone with a Māori name – it is okay to ask how to say this and if you are too shy, you can usually search any name and hear the pronunciation. It is frustrating to hear someone not even attempt to say your name correctly. Mine is said ‘Cocoa’, like the drink, except spelt ‘Kaukau’.
Courage and co-operation are imperative to begin integrating Te Reo Māori into your communications. Through keeping it real, we respect Te Ao Māori and understand the culture without using it for performative inclusivity. By starting small, we normalise it every day and grow our confidence. To be ready, we must stand tall and be prepared for negativity. And lastly, like learning anything new, we must practice!
It is now time for you to answer the karanga and begin to build, to become a house in the stockaded pā and lead with courage.