Learning Māori: Kura Reo

May 5, 2022, 3:44 p.m.

Tautīnei is going to shed some light on the different opportunities for learning te reo Māori in a short series “Learning to Talk Māori”, this week we start with kura reo or wānanga reo. 

Stepping into any learning space for the first time can be an overwhelming and uncomfortable experience. Add layers of generational trauma, guilt, shame and expectation and you have a Māori person stepping through those doors for the first (sometimes not) time to learn their own language. And if we want to rank experiences from least intimidating to most intimidating, attending a multi-day kura reo or wānanga reo will usually top everyone’s list. Despite this, kura reo and wānanga reo are more popular than ever with the benefits outstripping any initial discomfort. 

First held in Waimarama in 1989, Kura Reo Whakapakari Reo were initially conceived as a place for teachers to upskill in te reo Māori to better support the emergence of Māori medium education options, such as, kōhanga reo and kura kaupapa Māori. First funded by Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori (the Māori Language Commission) and organised at the regional level, kura reo are now open to all learners with the concept and style of delivery being adopted across Aotearoa filling school holiday calendars and tailored to suit a range of contexts. There are kura reo for accountants, lawyers, descendants of Kai Tahu, Ngāti Porou and so on, and are so popular that registrations are usually filled within minutes of opening.

In Te Taitokerau, two wānanga that have long waiting lists are the Kura Reo ki Whirinaki and Te Taumata (you can watch a live panel discussion with organisers here).

Te Kura Reo ki Whirinaki 2022 was held at Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Hokianga Photo credit: Te Rawhitiroa Bosch

Te Kura Reo ki Whirinaki is one such example of the growth in popularity of the kura reo wānanga style of learning and teaching. Originally established as a kura reo for those people from Whirinaki in South Hokianga, the organising committee, with support and funding from Te Mātāwai, now run two wānanga. First, a Kura Kāinga for people that whakapapa to Whirinaki and the hapū of Te Hikutu and a Kura Reo that is open to everybody, if you can snap up a spot. 

Te Ohu o Te Kura Reo ki Whirinaki Photo Supplied: Rawhitiroa Bosch

Rangimarie Pōmare, spoke with Te Hiku Media, sharing more details about the activities participants could expect at the Kura Kāinga. She also goes on to talk about the role of kaumātua and their continued support of the wānanga reo to strengthen and impart haukāinga-specific knowledge throughout the course of the wānanga. 

Following the one day Kura Kāinga, the four day Kura Reo was hosted at Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Hokianga. Te Kurataiaho Kapea, a teacher at the Kura Reo shared his insights with Te Hiku Media about the benefits of the kura reo style. Students are not only immersed in the language but te ao Māori, he goes on to state that while the language is the main kaupapa, it is impossible to separate it from tikanga and history.

Te Taumata panel led by Peter-Lucas Jones held online in 2022, streamed free and live on Facebook and Whare Kōrero.  

Te Taumata Tai Tokerau Wānanga Reo went digital this year as a way of combating COVID-19 disruptions, but also, taking advantage of a digital audience that engages with te reo Māori online. 

In its fifth year, Te Taumata is usually hosted in-person twice a year and has traveled around the region to be hosted by various hapū. Alana Thomas explained the format for the digital wānanga and spoke about her surprise at how engaged people were with the concept. 

The impact of Te Taumata 2022 was undeniable as social media was ablaze with photos and videos of people at other wānanga watching Te Taumata on big screens, children amusing themselves as parents were set up with notebooks in front of their televisions and even people at the beach streaming it on their phone. Live comments throughout the sessions also became a place where viewers not only shared their delight at what they were learning but also where they shared other ‘nuggets’ of knowledge and further explanation to the discussion. 

Whether online or in person, the immersive experience of kura reo and wānanga reo have demonstrated for over 30 years their value to the revitalisation of te reo Māori. And if you manage to pluck up the courage to register, you better be quick!





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