Community volunteer Mata Enua runs a Ma'uke Community rehearsal for their Cook Islands Language Week performance at the Auckland Museum atrium on Saturday. Photo: ABIGAIL DOUGHERTY/STUFF/22080545
Cook Islanders in Auckland are optimistic their reo will survive into the future, thanks to growing enthusiasm among the community’s youngest members.
Amid Cook Islands Language Week this week (‘Epetoma ō te reo Māori Kūki 'Āirani), the spotlight has been on one of the most endangered languages of the Pacific.
than 10 per cent of Cook Islanders worldwide speak te reo Māori Kūki 'Āirani
(Cook Islands Māori), including on the Cook Islands where English is used
across all parts of society.
among young Kūki 'Āirani Kiwis, excitement is growing about learning their reo
– mostly among people who weren’t taught it growing up.
Community volunteer Mata Enua said she gets sad for the tamariki who missed out
on their language, especially when it means they have language barriers with
sad for our children these days… They go to school, they speak English, and
when they come home they still speak English. It’s up to us parents to teach
our kids to speak their reo.
teach them through singing, and that way they can catch up, they can pick up
Islander and researcher from the University of Auckland Tangatakiikii Teura'atua-Rupeni
studied how community groups support youth to learn their reo for her masters’
found more often than not, lessons were informal and subconscious, rather than
in a classroom.
are learning in church, or in our sports groups or cultural groups or at school
at Polyfest,” she said. “There are a lot of spaces where we immerse ourselves
into the language.”
“It’s more about being part of an experience. That is where our youth come and want to be part of these events and gatherings, and that’s where our elders teach.”
the past there was despair around preserving te reo Māori Kūki ‘Āirani, but
people are more optimistic and eager to learn now, Teura’atua-Rupeni said.
the low numbers of fluent or proficient speakers, the enthusiasm among the
community tells a different story – and dwelling on the dwindling numbers feels
disheartening, she said.
do have a decline of our reo speakers, that’s the reality, but it doesn’t mean
it’s coming to an end.
just means we have to ask what solutions are we putting in place, what are we
doing in our communities to support our non-reo speakers, what are we doing to
encourage those that have that spark to learn.”
and her community members are from Ma’uke, also known as Akatokamanava, which
lies 277km northeast of Rarotonga and has a slightly distinct language variety
from te reo Māori Kūki 'Āirani.
‘Epetoma ō te reo Māori Kūki 'Āirani – Cook Islands Language Week concluded