Reo Journeys: Ben Moorhouse, Outreach and Education Coordinator

Department of Conservation —  12/09/2017

This week we’re celebrating Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori | Māori Language Week 2017. DOC’s Outreach and Education Coordinator, Ben Moorhouse tells us about his journey learning Te Reo and what it means to him and his role.

Why did you decide to learn Te Reo?

I moved to Ōtepoti (Dunedin) from the UK in 2011 to study for my PhD but it wasn’t until mid last year that I fully committed to the idea of staying in Aotearoa and starting the process to become an official resident. It was at that point that my reo journey started, I more or less said to myself, ‘right, you want to be a resident of this amazing country, currently you can only converse in one of the three national languages – better do some mahi!’.

I think the second driving moment for me to start learning Te Reo was that as a scientist and a passionate educator I realised that I was limiting myself and my audience (youth of Aotearoa) by only working in English – it was definitely time to jump into that waka reo and start having important kōrero i Te Reo Māori.

How is Te Reo important in your role at DOC?

Incredibly important – as a member of the DOC Outreach and Education Team we want to get all young people in New Zealand connecting with nature and feeling the value of that connection. I’m a long way off from having a full conversation in Te Reo, but it’s incredible to see the difference it makes when you use a few words that young people feel connected to and comfortable using in their rohe. Building up whanaungatanga with people by showing you care through language is so rewarding!

Do you have any tips for learning Te Reo?

Don’t be shy – jump in! No one will judge you! Being British I had no idea about vowel sounds and had no previous exposure to Te Reo! Since getting started I have yet to come across anyone who frowned at me or laughed at me, everyone just wants to help and are full of praise!

Online Resources

A great place to start for me was an awesome online resource called Tōku Reo – a language learning TV show that’s a vibrant and fun way of learning Te Reo Māori in the comfort of your own home. All the episodes are available online and each episode is roughly 25 minutes with a 5-minute podcast and practice questions to complement! Māori Dictionary  – This is an unbelievably amazing resource for checking Māori words or phrases.

Get a language app! I use Memrise which has a few different Te Reo programmes you can follow. I tend to spend 5 minutes on this app most days and it’s an easy way to get some kupu in your noggin! I usually do it while I’m walking, on the bus, at lunchtime, while waiting for the coffee to brew etc! It doesn’t take long but can be really rewarding!

Start using Te Reo Māori words you know – At first I consciously had to think to say kia ora and it felt a bit weird for the first few times – now I say it all the time and don’t even realise. Even family and friends back home have gotten used to it and my mum will always answer the phone to me with kia ora!

Think of other fun ways you can use Te Reo

One of my favourite ways of using Te Reo at the moment is on Instagram. I’ve made it a new rule of mine that every time I post a picture I have to type the first bit in Te Reo. It’s a fun way for me to learn and I can spend a bit of time working it out – which also means I’m learning! I bought a 2017 diary in both English and Te Reo which is a great way to get days and months into my head! Or learn a new waiata and its meaning!

If you can – sign up to a class. See if there’s one being run at your DOC office! I have learnt so much and increased my confidence just by being with other people learning and practicing.

Ask QuestionsIf you don’t know a word or having trouble pronouncing something don’t ignore it, see if you can find someone to ask. I promise they’ll be more than happy to help!

What’s the best thing about learning Te Reo?

The people! I’ve made so many new friends – that’s got to be a great win eh?!

Looking deeper, Te Reo is so connected to Te Ao Māori that you’re not only gaining knowledge of a language but you’re learning how to connect with an incredible and beautiful culture that’s so enriching. It’s important for all of us to understand what our appropriate place is in Te Ao Māori but I tell you what – it’s so worth putting the work in.

Do you have any advice for those wanting to learn but are unsure of how to start?

Like I said above, don’t worry about it. The sooner you stop worrying the sooner you can enjoy it! There’s heaps of resources out there that appeal to lots of different learning styles so find one that suits you. It doesn’t matter what your journey is, in a class, with a colleague or at home talking to your pets, what’s important is that you’re on the journey.

Kia ora e hoa mā! Kia kaha!!