Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Te Reo Māori in schools: let's just start

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  • Keir Leslie,

    The bit where there are practical problems is part of what's genius about universal te reo. It means you commit to building an infrastructure to deliver the reo to every school kid in the country, which is a big investment in the language.

    Since Jul 2008 • 1452 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    I would love to see NZ Sign Language offered too (third official language and also indigenous to NZ)

    yes

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • jb, in reply to Lucy Stewart,

    My main problem in Germany last year was picking up phrases quickly enough to apparently *sound* like I spoke some German when I ordered things, and then have to explain that I didn't actually when I got a rapid-fire response

    Same thing hapened to me until I figured out how to say "My German's not good, but I'd like to try"
    (Some guy I know who spend over 30 years in Germany without mastering the language - "I understand it involves EFFORT..." - created his own phonetic vocabulary - Shirley Gong for "Entschuldigung", was one

    a.small.town.in.germany • Since Jan 2007 • 86 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Francisco Blaha,

    When you learn a language as a kid you also learn a "different way of thinking" about the same things in your standard language, and that makes you curious and enhances your critical thinking. And that can only be good!

    And you are a great thinker, sir. Sorry didn't get to say hello properly the other night. Love to you and your family.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to william blake,

    Taupo. (toe-paw)

    Gwarn say it like it is meant to be said.

    instead we may hear this half-pai mangling:
    'toe-poe'

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • Samuel Scott,

    Ra whanau Russell, I wish I at least partially able to make sense in te reo. I find it frustrating in many contexts and I'm considering doing a night course. I wish I'd learnt at school. I definitely want my son to learn and hopefully I can learn some while helping him!

    South Wellington • Since Feb 2008 • 315 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Samuel Scott,

    onya

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    Native Affairs on Monday had an interesting segment about Jennifer Ward-Lealand learning te reo and she recounted how she and her South African friend got strange looks as they chatted away in te reo on the bus. But her desire to be fluent is not that strange. Her missionary ancestor arrived in 1823, the same year as mine did. They soon learned Maori and it was the first language for the pakeha children of the following couple of generations for those missionary families. My great uncle remembered, when he was a child in the 1880s, the respectable old pakeha ladies chatting in te reo in Nelson, where they then lived. So JWL was only reviving a family tradition by learning te reo, one that is common to many thousands of descendants of those early settlers.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3226 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    Native Affairs on Monday had an interesting segment about Jennifer Ward-Lealand learning te reo

    awesome story (9m clip):
    http://www.maoritelevision.com/news/national/native-affairs-tona-whakakai-marihi

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    pakeha

    Capitals, please. Ethnic groups have them.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • tim kong,

    There's a couple of points from my perspective as a teacher.

    Schools represent our communities and the wider society that we call NZ. We are fortunate that communities still have so much ability to choose and shape how their schools function. The fact that in some cases, the responses and contributions of those communities are interestingly self-serving, is just one of the natural outcomes of Tomorrow's Schools. This exception does not of course prove any rules about how communities are engaging with their local schools.

    The NZ Curriculum, has a huge capacity for learning languages. Whilst in that particular learning area, there is no specific requirement for Te Reo, this does not preclude any school from choosing to do so. Just as the English section doesn't mention Shakespeare - any school can choose to teach about the Bard and his work.

    One of the key factors that some forget is that the NZ Curriculum is a national document. It still requires every school, with their community to create and craft a local curriculum that meets the needs of that same community. That could include Te Reo, Somali, NZSL, or any number of languages.

    But building this sort of sustainable, useful and worthwhile sort of curriculum can be difficult and takes time and effort. It requires people in schools to up skill, outside experts to be available to provide support, and the community to be supportive of what that sort of change requires. To be really valuable the changes need to have a context that the students in that place understand and feel a part of.

    Basically the Peter Parker principle applies here - "With great power comes great responsibility". We as a society have the power to affect change, but that responsibility requires effort, dedication and an ability to think critically about what matters for our places.

    Because here's the thing I struggle with - we as a society constantly seem to see schools as the fixit stops, for all of the societal ills that seem to be current at the time

    Dog safety.
    Healthy eating
    Health and fitness
    Water safety
    Coding - this meme even comes with the tagline
    "What Schools Don't Teach"
    - blithely ignoring the fact that schools can and do.
    Financial literacy
    Music and dance

    All of these demand attention and schools race to deploy programmes that reflect these, while functioning inside a political structure, that in regards to the public system demands a focus on key areas; on National Standards, on priority learners, on modern learning practices for starters. We can argue about those separately, and their value or not - but those constraints exist, and will continue to exist for the public sector regardless of what party forms a government.

    Teaching and learning te reo Maori and tikanga are very important. A national policy is a start, but to actually make a difference to students, communities need to be involved in what goes on in schools, while understanding the aforementioned constraints that schools function within and respecting those.

    Lastly, all of us need to realise that the desires we have for our schools and students, need to be modelled and lived in our communities and in our wider society.

    Because that's where our children see, hear and observe the values we hold most highly. That's where they learn what's important and what matters.

    And that's on us.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 153 posts Report Reply

  • TracyMac, in reply to tim kong,

    Argh, don't get me started on the "kids should learn coding" crapola. I work in IT and occasionally write scripts. Does coding qua coding have much relevance to my daily work? Nope, not once I've knocked up that mailbox creation script, which I proceed to reuse a zillion times to create mailboxes. I might write a substantial script a few times a year. Did I need to do computer science or study programming to figure out how do so? Nope, just learned how to mash pre-baked scripts together with the assistance of Dr Google.

    Sure, there are jobs for professional coders, whether they be application/web/other. But not actually that many. There are going to be less in future with the refinement of machine-generated code, not to mention the programming bodyshops provided in places with cheap labour rates in South Asia.

    Learning coding will basically be irrelevant to most, including many who go into IT careers. Learning another language - especially one of the official languages of our own country - is more relevant to more people, even if you use it rarely.

    Coding is not like mathematics in terms of its use on a daily basis. Sure, it could be an optional course, but it's not something that teaches you how to run a computer system or network. What could be useful would be to build more into maths classes along the lines of Boolean logic. Since coding is based on those principles, that's a useful first step.

    Language studies merge into cultural/social studies, which I think is one of the core courses that should be taught after English and Maths. I wish schools went into explicitly teaching critical thinking - I learned a few scattered elements during history lessons, and perhaps they do it during media studies these days. But learning how to research and analyse and decide on the validity of an argument and the authority of the person making the argument are core skills for anyone. Coding, really not so much.

    Canberra, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 701 posts Report Reply

  • tim kong, in reply to TracyMac,

    Yep.

    We want critical problem solvers, who will choose the right tools to attack said problems. Those may or may not be coding tools.

    My point on current state of 'learn to code' is summed up thusly:

    https://twitter.com/DesignUXUI/status/490179377099845632/photo/1

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 153 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart, in reply to Chris Waugh,

    So it seems to me just about everybody learns how to write a decent essay the same way you did – right as they’re doing the work that requires those writing skills.

    Or they take a lot of essay-heavy arts courses; I can't speak about other subjects, but taking history at university taught me way more about references, constructing an argument based on evidence, and methodically reading pieces of text than any science paper I took. It was really helpful once I hit honours and most of the work turned into seminar-style classes and reading papers; the people who'd only taken science classes were clearly confused by the read-and-discuss format, which had been present from the first year in history. It wasn't a substitute for learning to write in the sciences, and I remain grateful my PhD coursework involved a class that addressed that specifically, but it was a huge help.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2105 posts Report Reply

  • Marcus Turner,

    If you're looking to make some sort of start in learning Maori, you might like to try this page http://kupu.maori.nz/. One of the ways you can use it, is to receive one word every day by email.

    For other languages, you might like Duolingo, though Chinese or Japanese for English speakers aren't available. For those, you could try Memrise.

    All of these services allow you to choose your own pace, and begin with non-intimidating bite-sized pieces.

    (And if you do want to learn code, you could similarly use Code Academy.)

    Since Nov 2006 • 212 posts Report Reply

  • B Jones,

    My mum's school had Maori names for their "houses": a mispronounced lip service paid to the great waka - Aya-teeya, etc.

    My school, in the 80s, introduced a programme called Taha Maori. The bits of it I can remember include a few songs - Ma is White, Karangatia Ra, E papa waiari and so on. Still mostly mispronounced - although we were taught the right vowel, WH and R sounds, it's hard not to revert to your basic language model.

    My daughter's kindergarten, in one of the whitest suburbs in Wellington, has a Maori teacher come in every week. She teaches new kupu, along with the sign language that goes with the words, and songs and actions - they're up to Toia Mai, which I first encountered as an adult. My daughter has a far better vocab than I picked up in school, and she's not even 5. She's learned the R sound completely independently of the English R (which is still more like a W for her) - she pronounces the Maori R closer to L - wrong, but in the opposite direction from most Pakeha NZers. I think that's the language acquisition window, before their preconceptions are fixed about how things should sound. Despite what I've learned since, I still find it more natural to mispronounce the words I first learned as a young child. I'm glad my kids won't have that.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 976 posts Report Reply

  • Richard Grevers, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Just a comment about learning second languages. It is a myth that children learn languages faster than adults.

    That's a very dated paper, Bart. My wife has studied child language acquisition, and more recent research shows a significantly increased language learning ability which disappears by age 11 (I would offer some links, but alas, she has just driven off until next week!). Furthermore, if a child starts school with a significantly underdeveloped first-language ability, the best thing you can do is teach them a second language, as that triggers a "second-chance" process that puts all the missing blocks of first language ability in place.

    New Plymouth • Since Jul 2011 • 143 posts Report Reply

  • Kevin McCready, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Actually Bart I fully support teaching science in Maori. It's a great way to update Maori. If we are serious about saving Maori we have to acknowledge that it will evolve like all languages. For me it's another of those tradeoffs where the trade involves a value judgement.

    Auckland • Since Jun 2013 • 119 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Richard Grevers,

    I would offer some links

    Please. I tried to find recent stuff but got bogged down by companies selling language training.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4460 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Kevin McCready,

    Actually Bart I fully support teaching science in Maori. It’s a great way to update Maori.

    I have no problem with working to save/update Maori. But I have a problem with doing it at the expense of science. There really is no need to teach science in Maori, you can do it for fun and fun helps children learn. But if you want those children to succeed in science then you must teach them excellent English skills. Yes I know that's unfair but it really is the language of science at this time.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4460 posts Report Reply

  • Francisco Blaha, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    As non native english speaker scientist, I need to pay an editor to go over my work when publishing in English. While there is a "parallel" spanish published scientific "wold" is much smaller, and crucially minimally funded in comparison. However I think there is merit in at least be aware of how difficult is to wrote conceptually in a different language outside english, perhaps this allows to simplify the english writing of native speakers as to make it more accessible to non native readers. (loving this tread!)

    Since Dec 2006 • 18 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    What percentage of school students will end up in a role where they author academic papers in the sciences? One in a thousand?

    There's a fallacy in education policy that, because most policy-makers have postgraduate qualifications, everything should be geared to the needs of the tiny minority that will go on to postgrad study.

    Most people will never go near an academic paper, and for them the purposes of teaching science involve developing literacy and numeracy through working with interesting subject matter, as well as gaining an overall understanding of the scientific method. Secondary to that is preparing those students who will take science or engineering at degree level with the skills to commence university.

    All of that can be done in any language you choose. I believe the NZ science curriculum, at least up to year 11, is fully supported in Te Reo.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • linger, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Here in Japan, I quite often hear arguments such as “it’s more important for children to learn proper Japanese than to spend time talking in English”, or “Children need to learn to think logically before they can benefit from learning English”.* It’s a common trap to think of teaching one set of subjects (especially, languages) as coming at the expense of others (especially, science and maths), as if different subjects involve exclusive and competing uses of time and resources.

    But it doesn’t have to be that way, if a curriculum is properly integrated. One could, for example, have science presented in English (including English communication activities), but then use some classes in te reo to revise or revisit the same material from a different perspective.

    (* one hidden undercurrent here is the idea that a fluent speaker of English cannot be “truly” Japanese. Which is absurd [unless you think that Japanese national and cultural identity is uniquely tied to the exclusive use of Japanese language]; but is it any better to suggest that a nonfluent user of English cannot be a “truly” effective scientist?)

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1940 posts Report Reply

  • Tim Hannah,

    Lastly, all of us need to realise that the desires we have for our schools and students, need to be modelled and lived in our communities and in our wider society.

    Oh yes this. My local school is 1/3 kura kaupapa. My naive assumption was that te reo would pour out of the those classes and 'infect' the rest of the school. After seeing the place for around 5 years I'm pretty convinced that that isn't really happening, the rest of the kura seems about on par with standard schools (um, I think, maybe my perception is skewed).

    I think that's because the tamariki from the kura speak Māori in class, but they don't really use Māori with non-Māori speakers. And why would they? Why should they? - easier to speak English.

    For those of us who want our kids to learn more te reo than we did, the onus is on us to encourage them to use it - at home, in the community.

    Schools can support that, but if Māori is taught and used only in school it will largely stay only in school. The best thing we can do is become more proficient ourselves.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 228 posts Report Reply

  • Josh Petyt,

    TL;DR the comments today. Sorry everyone.
    I just want to say hear hear to Russel’s last call to action.
    My son is three and growing up bilingual. At the moment his English is lagging behind his Japanese but both improve every day. I can’t wait to bring him home so that he can learn te reo and go on to pick up as many other languages as he wants.

    Japan • Since Apr 2014 • 45 posts Report Reply

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