Let’s ask young Maori in Porirua if they want to be forced to learn Te Reo

Is Te Reo destined to become extinct, too?

Hats off to Maori Party leader Pita Sharples, who has spoken wisely and sensibly (in English) on the future of Te Reo.

He has injected a much-needed dose of reality into the proposition that New Zealand should have a bilingual Maori-speaking government.

That proposition comes from the Waitangi Tribunal. Accordingly it will be accorded great respect, not because it deserves respect but because Pakeha who challenge it risk being denounced as racists.

Led by Justice Joe Williams, according to the Herald, the tribunal has released a specific te reo chapter of its WAI 262 Flora and Fauna claim inquiry which deals with intellectual property issues.

In a letter to Maori Affairs minister Dr Pita Sharples, Justice Williams said te reo was in crisis and urgent action was needed to change the situation.

“Like Maori, the Crown too must own the challenge facing te reo – and, as with Maori, the best way of meeting that challenge is to use the language.

“The point of all this is that there is no reason why the Crown must be monolingual in English … it is important not to overlook the fact that the Crown represents Maori too.

“It is not a Pakeha institution, even if that has been its character for much of the past.

“The Government must shift its mindset so it comes to see Maori not as external to itself but as part of its very own make up.”

This looks suspiciously like social engineering of the worst sort – forcing a language on people who might not want to learn it or use it.

They are effectively communicating with each other – thank you very much – without using Maori.

Attorney-General Christopher Finlayson might be an exception. He often speaks garbage (using the English tongue) and says he wishes he could speak Maori (presumably so he can speak garbage in Maori as well).

But those who aren’t bothering to learn Te Reo include many Maori, whose preference for English is the obverse of the tribunal report’s findings that the numbers of Maori learning Te Reo are declining.

Here’s what the Herald is telling us –

* Proportions of younger te reo speakers declining as older speakers are dying off.

* Since 1993 the proportion of Maori in kohanga reo fell from half to a quarter.

* In 2009 15.2 per cent of Maori children participated in Maori medium education. A decade earlier it was 18.6 per cent.

The Government is defying those trends and increasingly communicates in Te Reo (despite what Alf regards as an obvious Maori preference for English).

In Parliament those MPs who wish to do so will speak in Maori.

It’s a nice little job creator, because translators are called for.

During Maori Language Week, the Inland Revenue Department was given awards in two categories: Māori Language Week events; and Māori language initiatives during the year.

Inland Revenue won in the Government section for Māori language initiatives and was first equal with Massey University for Māori Language Week events.

So things are happening on the language front.

Come in Pita Sharples.

Dr Sharples said he’d like to see his colleagues speaking Maori. However, governments could only do so much for language revival.

“It’s really got to be by the people. If you want a language to survive the responsibility lies squarely with the people.

“Really, it’s about getting the language into the homes and families talking it and that’s how it will survive.”

The bloody Waitangi Tribunal, however, wants to “revamp” the Maori Language Commission.

If that means sacking whoever is on it now and putting in a new lot of members, Alf is indifferent.

But no. It means more than that.

It is calling for the commission to be given more powers to compel public bodies to contribute to te reo’s revival.

What’s with this damnable urge for compulsion???

The only things we should be compelled to do is pay our taxes (and Alf is ambivalent on that one) and take a shot of whisky as a nightcap before we go to bed.

Alf is influenced in his thinking by some interviews he saw on TV3 with a bunch of young Maori people in – from memory – Porirua.

They didn’t much want to speak Te Reo, thank you.

Alf wonders if Justice Williams and his tribunal bothered talking with these people and the thousands like them, rather than with the self-serving Maori elite, before coming up with its heavy-handed and preposterous proposals.

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