Maori language revitalization experts visit SKC
By B.L. Azure
Tanner, who has made numerous trips to New Zealand to witness the Maori
language salvation and revitalization effort, welcomes Tania Ka'ai and
John Morefield during their recent stop at SKC. (B.L. Azure photo)
PABLO — A pair of Maori tribal people from New Zealand stopped by
Salish Kootenai College last week to give a presentation on their
largely successful effort to save the Maori language through immersion
schools. Around 15 local people attended the presentation in the Late
Louie Caye building.
Tania Ka'ai and John Morefield from the National Maori Language
Institute and the International Centre for Language Revitalization at
Aukland University of Technology said the work to revitalize the Maori
language has the blessing and participation of Maori tribal leaders.
"Many people have dedicated their lives to the dream of having
our language survive," Ka'ai said. "We at the Institute work to ensure
that their dreams of preservation of the Maori language is realized."
She said there is a direct link between language, culture and
identity. "Language connects us to our origins and origins are
important because they define who we are; help us understand our past,
our present and our future; help us understand what drives us; helps us
define our place in our communities and in the world; and, help us make
sense of our environment."
The language revitalization project is partnered with several New Zealand institutes of higher learning.
Like many indigenous languages throughout the world the Maori
languages was at the precipice of extinction. And when a language is
lost, so are the direct link to the past and the keys to understanding
the culture the past gave birth to.
John Morefield discusses the interactive Internet programs designed to help Maori language learners. (B.L. Azure photo)
The Maori language revitalization effort through language immersion
schools has been modeled by other indigenous groups seeking to save
their tribal languages. In the past several Salish tribal delegations
have traveled to New Zealand to witness and study the Maori approach to
There are several components of the salvation-revitalization effort that is a melding of the ancient past and the digital age.
The revitalization project took existing audio and support print
material and digital converted them for use on computer podcasts and
interactive learning modules via the Internet. There are several levels
of learning material from the beginner to the advanced level.
The goals of the interactive computer Internet program for the
learners is to: help them meet and interact with other people leaning
the language; make the learning experience fun and interactive; be
customizable to the individual learners goals, needs and preferences;
make the language useful and relevant in daily life; get feedback and
guidance through the learning process; and, provide a safe and relaxed
environment to experiment with the language.
One of the guiding spirits of the revitalization effort is the
late Sir James Henare. "The language is the core of our Maori
culture... If the language dies, as some predict, what do we have left
to us?" Henare said. "Our Maori language as far as our people our
concerned is the very soul of the Maori people. What does it profit a
man to gain the whole world but suffer the loss of his own soul? What
profit to the Maori if we lose our language and lose our soul?"
The Maori language is now taught in schools from elementary through the college doctorate level.
Tania Ka'ai answered audience queries following the presentation at SKC. (B.L. Azure photo)
"We help make the elders' dream come true," Ka'ai said. "We are
committed to the creation of a critical mass of qualified Maori
indigenous scholars. We know that when our time comes to move on our
language is safe in their hands."
She said the Maori want to share the work and approach they did to save their language with others.
"We would like all here to come to New Zealand to witness and
learn more about the teaching and preservation of the Maori language,"
To learn more about the Maori language revitalization effort visit website: www.teipukarea.maori.nz