New Zealand Law Society - Taking the Māori language up a level in the legal profession

Taking the Māori language up a level in the legal profession

This article is over 3 years old. More recent information on this subject may exist.

The profession is being encouraged to speak more Māori in the workplace following Māori Language Week, which was held earlier this month.

Each year, Te Taura Whiri o Te Reo Māori (The Māori Language Commission) creates a theme for the week; this year’s theme was “Kia ora Te Reo Māori” or “let the Māori language live”.

“Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori 2017 saw a huge surge in the promotion of Te Reo Māori in a number of different work environments,” says Alana Thomas, Director of Auckland firm Kaupare Law & Consultancy.

“Within the legal fraternity itself, initiatives were supported that incorporated Te Reo Māori into daily conversations, communications, emails and there were a number of activities that organisations supported to learn more about the Māori culture generally.”

Post Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori, Ms Thomas has some more suggestions on how to keep up the use of Te Reo in the workplace.

“The call is to ‘normalise Te Reo Māori’, but this cannot be achieved if the progress we make in Māori Language Week is left for that one week,” says Alana.

Part of everyday lives

So, what does ‘normalisation’ mean in the context of language?

“To me it means, not being surprised when I hear Te Reo being spoken outside of my home or outside the marae. That we no longer have to learn the language or fight for recognition, because it will just be a part of all New Zealanders’ everyday lives, like English.”

“We encourage everyone to continue with the five steps we suggested – incorporate them into your mahi (work) every day but also challenge yourself and do a little bit more,” she says.

With learning any language, you start off small and build from there. As you improve your language skills, you learn more about culture and history.

“Start regular Te Reo classes at your office, learn more about Te Reo me ōnā tikanga (practices and protocols) and Māori culture through professional development courses.

“Go online and promote a weekly whakatauki (proverb) at your work, start some waiata (singing) sessions so that you are learning new kupu (words) but also having a good time while you do it.

“The legal fraternity are known for making changes, pushing boundaries and stepping outside of what is comfortable – so let’s be known for this as well and lead the charge to normalise Te Reo Māori within the law,” says Ms Thomas.

For more information and free resources on learning Te Reo, visit the Māori Language Commission’s website, Te Whanake’s Māori language online website, Victoria University's Māori legal dictionary or contact Alana at Kaupare Law, who will be happy to point you in the right direction.