Making an Effort – Kiwi Schoolkid Gives Us a Lesson in Pronunciation of Te Reo Maori

Have you ever had someone mispronounce your name or country of origin more than twice? Or perhaps so often, you’ve given up repeatedly having to correct them?

You are not alone.

The mispronunciation of Maori and Pasifika names and words has not only become common in schools and in the work place, but through media on television. Maori and Pacific Islanders have a huge influence on the NRL and internationally with Rugby Union – how often have we watched a rugby league game with a commentator slipping a, “David Fi-low-go” or “Ben Te-yo”? Due to a lack of knowledge perhaps?

Many of our Maori and Pasifika people can people relate to this, which is why hearing an individual speak a word correctly, or a person that takes the time to learn the correct pronunciation, can make us (to say the least) appreciative.

This is a subject student Kinnian Brathwait managed to address in his school speech, which has now reached more than 300,000 views after going viral a couple of weeks ago (see clip below). The video has also made headlines in overseas media outlets, “The BBC” and “The Guardian”.

In the speech, 15 year old Kinnian highlights the importance of pronouncing Maori words correctly in order to help preserve the indigenous culture –

“All that is required to pronounce words correctly is a little bit of effort. That little bit of effort is a crucial part of preserving the language of our indigenous culture, something that, if dies out – unlike English – is irreplaceable because no other countries speak Te Reo Maori.”

In an interview with Maori TV, Kinnian spoke on the matter saying, “All around the world it [correct pronunciation] can mean something for other cultures as well (not just the Maori culture) because it’s all about preserving the culture through the language and so many other countries can relate to that.”

There is so much more to pronouncing a Maori or Pasifika name correctly. It’s respectful.

It shows respect towards the individual, their family, their culture and history. Something many of our people would be appreciative of. So lets hope others choose to make a genuine effort to pronounce names out of respect, which in turn, will lead to a better understanding and that mispronunciations will no longer being such a normality in our society.

“If we lose the language, the pillar of tradition, the whole culture will be weakened and a whole lot of history and knowledge will be lost with the language.” – Finnian Brathwait.

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