Reo Korero - Spoken Maori

Prior to the 19th century Maori language was a spoken language and the sole language of communication. The first attempts to develop a writing system for Maori were made by missionaries in 1814. Up until the spread of written literacy, history, whakapapa (genealogy) and knowledge were handed down orally, from one generation to another. This korero included thoughts, customs, desires, hopes, frustrations, and history.

The desire to hand information to future generations saw the development of oral art forms such as karanga (formal call of welcome), whaikorero (formal speech), waiata (song), haka (dance), pakiwaitara (histories and stories) and karakia (prayers).

Selected individuals were identified as repositories of tribal information who were trained to be careful and adept crafters of the spoken word. It is through these art forms that the beauty of the language can still be heard today.

Recent research into the number of Maori speakers indicates that the numbers have stabilised. However, there are fewer highly fluent Maori speakers – estimated at only 9% (approximately 29,000) of the Maori population.

There are now only a few places where Maori is spoken: principally on the marae during special ceremonial occasions and in some schools and community settings.

If the language is to survive and flourish, it must be spoken all the time, so why don’t you give it a go and try out our interactive conversations or brush up on your pronunciation.

Take a look at our: