Wed 11 Apr 2018

New Te Reo intake

Walking into a full WITT classroom on a Tuesday night you’ll find no shortage of international, local and business people eagerly learning Māori Language Level 1.

Among these keen students are business owners Andrea Leadbetter and David Rielly – directors of TGM Creative - a design and branding company based in Taranaki.

Andrea and David are part of a growing number of business leaders who see the business and cultural benefits of understanding Māori language and protocol.

The success of this course has prompted WITT to run the second one, starting in May and running through to December. It’s an endorsement of the decision to invest in a new suite of courses in Māori in 2018.

“We want to be able to offer the Māori community our expertise. But we’ve not got what I consider to be an appropriate level of understanding of Māori protocols,” says Andrea. “More and more I feel I want to connect – this is our country, our community.”

David Rielly says the course so far has been language-based, but he is excited to learn more cultural elements that go hand in hand later on in the course, including a marae visit.

Last month’s Q and A session on Māori business lead by WITT tutors at the Chamber of Commerce is another prime example of the business community’s interest and investment in learning Māori language and protocol.

Tutor Bernie Edwards is warmed by the growing interest in the language and culture.

“The hourglass is starting to turn – I am seeing school teachers who are keen to learn, I am sitting down with grandparents whose grandchildren are coming home speaking Māori and they want to learn too.”

He says students in his class wonder why they waited so long before enrolling and they feel exhilarated.

“They are encouraged to learn the Taranaki dialect – they learn about the waka and iwi, karakia, waiata and Taranaki protocols.”

Bernie says for him, the true value of the course is not how much his students get to know, but how much they can contribute to the revitalisation of Māori language and culture.

Both Andrea and David believe there are considerable business benefits emerging from their decision to enrol at WITT.

The class is currently the couple’s highlight of the week, and they express warm praise for tutor Bernie. In fact, their 13-year-old son James has sat in with them during class.

“It’s lovely… the three of us now enjoy putting what we have learned to the test when we are together – such as picking the colour of cars when we are on the road,” Andrea said.

They believe this growing enthusiasm for learning Māori language and protocol indicates a shift in attitude throughout the community, where it was not long ago that the New Plymouth District resoundingly turned its back on a proposal for Māori wards.

Or more recently where former National and ACT party leader Don Brash complained that Morning Report host Guyon Espiner was “spouting on” using Māori greetings on National Radio.

David believes the WITT Māori Language Course is one of the ways the community is gaining a better understanding and appreciation for the Māori language, community and history; noting that TGM Creative was a co-sponsor of the Asplundh Guided Walks Series that took place earlier this year.

Some of these walks explored areas in Waitara, rich in Māori history. The couple believes initiatives such as this highlight the importance of Māori culture throughout the region.  And by taking part in the Māori Language Course (Rumaki, Reo Rua) they are doing their part in learning and expanding their Māori culture and understanding.

Andrea and David’s message to people considering learning Māori is simple – do it!

Bernie says the only entry criteria is having an open mind.

To learn more about this course go to  https://www.witt.ac.nz/Courses/Maori-Language-and-Culture/New-Zealand-Certificate-in-Te-Reo-(Rumaki,-Reo-Rua)-(Level-1)/