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Say The Kupu Right

As Te Wiki ō Te Reo Māori comes to an end, so too does the hype of using Te Reo Māori. The language doesn’t just exist for a week in the month of Mahuru (September). It is here all year round. It surrounds us in the names of our peers, cities, suburbs, streets, islands, animals, plants, politicians, sports stars, organisations, films, events, I could keep going all day. If you haven’t already, I implore you to take the first step to embracing Te Reo Māori – correct pronunciation.

My first experience with mispronunciation was in primary school where I was known as “Hin-aye”, instead of Hine. Now, in my fourth year of study at AUT my name is no longer “Hin-aye”, though I continue to hear the Māori language being butchered and warped. At first, I thought it was disrespectful laziness. “Mowe-ree”. “Towel-wronger”. “Pa-hooter-car-wa”. But through conversations with Pākehā (non- Māori) I discovered many were simply never taught otherwise. Born out of mouths of inexperienced speakers, this mispronunciation was then bred by the unawareness of those that repeated it. A degenerative cycle of distorted kupu (words).

Thus, I created Say The Kupu Right (STKR). Unlike most Te Reo Māori resources, STKR focusses solely on pronunciation with reference to common English kupu. Learning Te Reo is not about learning a brand-new set of sounds, but rather applying the sounds you already know to new words. STKR aims to encourage spoken Te Reo in a non-confrontational setting. This Instagram page allows Te Reo to be learnt within the comfort of your home by dedicating as little as 5 minutes a week to STKR. (Search @saythekupuright on Instagram to begin your journey).

But why does it matter? Simple answer, respect. A word or name should be said in the way that its people intended it to be said. If someone were to introduce themselves as “Anne”, I wouldn’t address them as “Ah-neh” just because that’s how it is said according to my mother-tongue. I would call her “Anne” just as she has intended her name to be said.

Additionally, Te Reo is not just about the language, but also the history concealed within it. A single word often holds entire stories and historic information about a person, area or event. For example, Whāngārei is a shortened version of “Te Whāngā a Reipae”, or “Te Whāngā a Reitū”, referring to the whāngā (harbour) of twin sisters Reipae and Reitū. It helps to illustrate their story and that of the area. When a word is mispronounced it loses a significant part of history, as in the case of Oanaka. What originally depicted the story of Rangatira (chief) Anaka, is now more commonly known as Wanaka due to mispronunciation.

Te Reo Māori is not a language to sit only in the mouths of Maori, but to be spoken by all. It is (if I do say so myself) a beautiful language full of history and stories and it is an honour to be a carrier of such greatness, Māori or not. Don’t just make an effort with Te Reo Māori for one week a year during Mahuru. Keep learning, keep practicing, correct yourself and others and Say The Kupu Right.

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