The Māori Language

drawing of maori warriors

The Māori language is one of the official languages in New Zealand. It is spoken mostly by the indigenous people who are called Māori. The origin of the language traces back the Eastern Polynesian islands, where the Māori history can be traced back. In reality only some 30,000 people can speak the language fluently, but several words have made it into everyday use with all the people currently inhabiting New Zealand. The most famous expression would be the ubiquitous “Kia Ora” which can be translated as “hello, how are you”.

Here’s a few more words and concepts to illustrate the rich vocabulary of the Māori people

Awa = River

Motu = Island

Puke = Hill

Wai = Water

Whanga = Harbour

Kia Ora = Hi

Haere mai = Welcome

Maunga = Mountain

The Māori language represents a big part of the culture of New Zealand, yet many people fail to pronounce the words correctly. Despite many of the current inhabitants of New Zealand have ancestors from other countries, the people in general respect the language and the culture of the indigenous people. This is in stark contrast when compared for example against the neighboring Australia. It has been suggested that Australia was home to more than 500 languages, but these days less than 10 remain in use. And needless to say, the number of speakers are rapidly declining. There is no culture without a language, and with the death of a language, something is lost forever.

Despite the relatively few speakers of Māori language, there are certain elements in the culture of New Zealand that keep the story going on. Early 2016 the Internet went wild about the wedding party of a Māori bride who got very emotional about the traditional haka of the groomsmen. The haka is an ancestral war cry, a call for a challenge by the maori people of New Zealand. While the original haka was performed before a battle, there are other haka that are used to welcome people, to signify great achievements and occasions. For most people the haka is very striking in the dance, performance and expressions, the words being used are indeed from the original Māori language.

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Juha is the chief bird at Kiwi Directory.