A new study has found te reo Māori is flourishing among pre-schoolers, with nearly three quarters of New Zealand four-year-olds using at least some of the language.
Photo: RNZ / Rob Dixon
The research, led by Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi, analysed information from Growing up in New Zealand, the country’s largest study of child development.
It found 10 percent of children could speak or understand simple sentences in te reo Māori at age four – and about 20 percent of those were non-Māori.
Executive Director of Research at the Wānanga Te Kani Kingi said the findings were very encouraging.
“One of the interesting findings from this study is the profile of tamariki across New Zealand in terms of their use of te reo Māori is somewhat different to what we would typically find within that population,” Prof Kingi said.
“About 75 percent of children under the age of five who were part of the research used some te reo Māori and that’s something that you wouldn’t find in the more general population.”
He said the figures were an indication that the revitalisation efforts in the past were working.
“It tells us that the degree of enthusiasm for te reo Māori is not just among the Māori population, and perhaps the strategies of the past are now beginning to take effect in terms of Māori language use and revitalization.
“It also tells us some more specific advice in terms of what the drivers of te reo Māori are and what types of factors support children to speak te reo Māori.
“We found that if your household is in close proximity to other households that are speaking te reo Māori that is incredibly important in terms of the child’s fluency or proficiency in te reo Māori and also if the mother had a tertiary qualification there was a strong relationship between that and the child’s ability to speak te reo Māori.”
He said screen time was a negative predictor of te reo Māori.