Char-Koosta News

The Official Publication of the Flathead Nation online

October 28, 2010

Maori language revitalization experts visit SKC

By B.L. Azure

Terry 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)
Terry 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)
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 language salvation.

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)
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," Ka'ai said.

To learn more about the Maori language revitalization effort visit website: www.teipukarea.maori.nz

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