His Story (history to you!) Let’s go back in time - Power to the People
Horses for Courses Business Employment Education Home Marae Worship English Maori But then came . . . The Second World War! By 1860 Pakeha outnumbered Maori and the power started to shift. Although at the time many government officials and prominent Pakeha were fluent in Maori, English was seen, even by many Maori, as the means to prosper in a Pakeha dominated world. However, the Maori language, although discouraged in the schools, remained the first language of most Maori up to World War II. It survived because it was spoken in the home.
The War on Words One of the casualties of World War II was the Maori lifestyle and the consequent fostering of the Maori language. The upsurge of urban employment opportunities following the war resulted in a huge movement of Maori to the cities – within 20 years of the war 60% of Maori were urban dwellers living in a highly Pakeha dominated world, and their language began to be lost. Te reo hui kia ora tane kaumatua wahine whare Whose fault was that?
The Blame Game As David Crystal (2000, p70) points out regarding language death, “. . . answers to the ‘why’ question . . . never do more than isolate one of the issues”. He makes the observation (p 78) that the death of a language through culture assimilation (one of the issues, and one that is important here) follows three broad stages: 1. Pressure from political, social, or economic sources to speak the dominant language 2. A period of emerging bilingualism 3. The younger generation becoming increasingly proficient in the new language and finding their first language is irrelevant to their new needs Following the drift to the cities the Maori language started to go through these three stages as it gave way to English, the language of business, commerce, and employment. If the language is to be saved it must be caught at Stage Two –Stage Three is usually too late. By the 1970s we were well into Stage Two, but
To the rescue . . . the movement to save the Maori language began: “ From the 1970s many Māori people reasserted their identity as Māori. An emphasis on the language as an integral part of Māori culture was central to this. Māori leaders were increasingly recognising the dangers of the loss of Māori language. New groups emerged and made a commitment to strengthening Māori culture and the language.” (History of the Maori Language, www.nzhistory.net.nz)
1975 Māori language week introduced
1978 first officially bilingual school opened at Ruatoki in the Urewera
1983 first Māori-owned Māori-language radio station (Te Reo-o-Poneke) went to air
1982 kohanga reo movement, which immersed Māori pre-schoolers in the Māori language followed by kura kaupapa, a system of primary schooling also in the Māori-language
1987 Māori made an official language of New Zealand
So what has all this to do with my Maori ESOL student?
Back to His-story Hemi’s parents were concerned about the loss of the Maori language so made a decision to always speak Maori in the home. His father had to use English in his employment and his mother had to use English in many of her contacts outside the home, at the supermarket, and so on, but Hemi had grown up barely needing to use English. He spoke Maori at home, and all his education up to the end of the Year 11 had been in total Maori immersion schools. His friends were his classmates and they also conversed almost exclusively in Maori. Hemi is an intelligent boy who would benefit from a university education. The local total Maori immersion school had taken him as far as they could and now he had to either leave the area or start attending my school. He chose the latter, but . . . All his lessons would now be in English!! Hence this became this
Beware! History is about to repeat itself. Hemi is in the same situation as those Maori who migrated to the cities after the Second World War. He will end up bilingual. Will he bring up his children the same way? Or will he say, “ I had it tough. I’m not going to do the same to my children!” “ Language is a major means . . . of showing where we belong, and distinguishing one social group from another” (Crystal (1997) p. 19) . If Hemi’s children lose their language they are in danger of losing their culture. Will Hemi then blame English for this loss? Doesn’t he know he can have his cake and eat it too! All he has to do is recognise that English and Maori each have different purposes in his life. English – providing intelligibility in the wider community Maori – providing identity in the local community And they can happily coexist, complementing each other and giving Hemi and his children a much richer life!
“ Arguments about the need for national or cultural identity are often seen as being opposed to those about the need for mutual intelligibility. But this is misleading. It is perfectly possible to develop a situation in which intelligibility and identity happily coexist. This situation is the familiar one of bilingualism – but a bilingualism where one of the languages within the speaker is the global language, providing access to the world community, and the other is a regional language, providing access to a local community. The two functions can be seen as complementary, responding to different needs. And it is because the functions are so different that a world of linguistic diversity can in principle continue to exist in a world united by a common language.” (Crystal (1997) p. 19) Support from the Heavyweights . . . as I said, he can have his cake and eat it too! If a language dies it is not because another language killed it, but because . . . those who own the language no longer see it as relevant and allow it to die through neglect.
References Crystal, D. (1997). English as a global language . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Crystal, D. (2000). Language Death . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Crystal, D. (2009, November 1). Global English with David Crystal. Video clip on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WZI1EjxxXKw&feature=related The history of the Maori language – retrieved 4 October 2011 http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/culture/maori-language-week/history-of-the-maori-language