1. When should I begin speaking Māori to my child?
Begin at birth and if one is very keen, begin before birth. There is no such thing as too early, as a baby acquires language sounds and tones even while they are still in the womb.
2. What can I do to help my Māori speaking child if I can't speak Māori
Use whatever Māori you do have and endeavour to acquire more. Try to ensure that the Māori you use is correct. Also note answer to question 1 above. Check out some of the strategies which you can use.
3. Why do I have to make such a big commitment if I want my child to speak Māori?
Māori is in a much weaker position than English, and therefore parents must be very committed and determined if they wish to ensure that their child will become Māori speakers. For most children and parents alike, it is much easier to speak English. It takes a real commitment to counteract the natural human instinct to do whatever is easiest!
4. How long will it take my child to learn to speak Māori?
The pace at which a child learns Māori depends on the amount of Māori they are immersed in; therefore the more contact hours the better. Remember also, that all children do not acquire language in the same way.
The Gaelic community provides a guide that indicates the extent of the commitment needed. Where neither parent is a Gaelic speaker, it is generally expected that for a child over the age of 2yrs, it will take some 800 to 2000 hours to reach a high level of fluency.
5. Why is a my attitude towards Māori so important?
Children pick up and reflect their parents' attitudes. So if as a parent you are not really supportive of Māori language your children are likely to share that attitude and will treat the language in the same way. Parents who are supportive of their child learning Māori, they should remember the following points:
Keeping positive and enthusiastic about te reo Māori is important. Your attitude affects how your child will feel about speaking Māori.
To really support your child, it's important that you make an effort to learn, improve or extend your Māori language ability. If you do not speak Māori already, it can be fun to learn alongside your child. And you can enjoy the benefits of forming a Māori language bond with your child.
Learning a language is a long term commitment - it takes patience, consistency, and determination.
Children pick up lots of messages about Māori language from the way we behave as adults. Be aware of the unintended messages that we so easily convey by speaking English such as: important things are discussed in English; to be grown-up you have to speak English; it is inappropriate to speak Māori in front of other people.
6. Will my child be able to speak English as well as his/her peers?
There is clear evidence that a child's English will not suffer at the expense of acquiring Māori language. Rather, their linguistic ability will probably be enhanced. A bilingual person can comprehend the nature of language situations better than a monolingual person and therefore has more flexibility towards learning and embracing other languages.
In most parts of the world, two or more languages are commonplace and spoken without difficulty. In a global world, speaking only one language is abnormal and is, in fact, a disadvantage. The mental agility and cultural flexibility that comes with speaking more than one language is a necessary skill in our world today.
English is so powerful in our society that it is nearly impossible to grow up in New Zealand without learning to speak English. Our children will acquire English language despite us. The challenge is to ensure that their Māori language is well developed before English becomes their preference.
7. Is it too late to begin speaking Māori to my child once they are school-age?
Definitely not. But it is likely to be more difficult as the language bonds have been set in English. Your child may resist such fundamental change and upheaval - tantrums and other undesirable behaviours are possible. However, putting aside these problems, it is still worthwhile in the end. To achieve the desired result, think carefully about how you will introduce Māori language and how to handle any difficulties that might arise. Consistency, frequency, and patience are even more critical to achieving the desired result.
8. Why has my child stopped speaking Māori?
There can be several reasons for this. Go to Aue! My child has stopped speaking Māori to read more. We’ve also included some handy hints to help you overcome this challenge!