Kia ora, tēnā koe, a haere mai!
Welcome to Te Wiki o te Reo Māori, or Māori Language Week. This year, with a theme of ‘Kia Kaha te Reo Māori’ or ‘Let’s make the Māori language strong’, it’s time for us to look at how we can make the Māori language strong in the place where we spend so much of our time – the workplace.
Why is it so important that we strengthen te Reo Māori in the workplace?
Many of the businesses we work with have high numbers of Māori people within the organisation. Integrating te Reo Māori into your workplace not only upholds the Treaty of Waitangi, it also allows your Māori team members to bring their whole selves to work. Just as importantly, embracing te Reo Māori and tikanga Māori shows your people from other cultures and countries that in New Zealand workplaces, diverse cultures are celebrated and welcome.
By giving your people the opportunity to include their cultural identity in their workplace identity, you help increase their confidence and encourage engagement with the core fundamentals of any workplace – from communication to health and safety.
With te Reo Māori only made an official language of New Zealand three decades ago after many years of being discouraged and stamped out, we have many more years ahead of us to strengthen the language.
Below, we share some of the best ways you can introduce te Reo Māori into your workplace – and strengthen the language, the culture, and your people while you do.
Greet people in te Reo Māori
One of the easiest ways to incorporate te Reo Māori into the workplace is by being respectful and open to using different greetings. Most Kiwis already know Kia ora or tēnā koe – so how about explaining in a meeting the difference between tēnā koe (greeting one person), tēnā kōrua (greeting two people), and tēnā koutou (greeting three or more people)? Then put those into practice by opening meetings using the right form of greeting and leading by example, greeting people you pass by with a friendly “Kia ora! Kei te pēhea koe?”
Another great way to embed te Reo Māori into your organisational vocabulary is by using Māori greetings in emails. Why not wish your colleagues a good morning by opening your first emails of the day with “Ata mārie” or showing your appreciation with “Ngā mihi”? Wish them a nice day with “Kia pai tō rā” or give them your apologies with “Aroha mai”. Some other great greetings to use in emails or letters can be found on the LIANZA website.
Introduce mihimihi to meetings
In Māori culture, recognising your whakapapa and where you’ve come from is vital to understanding a person and building whakawhanaungatanga – building connection and relationship. Why not introduce mihimihi to your meetings, inviting people to introduce themselves and where they are from? Māori team members may be able to do theirs in te Reo Māori, linking themselves to their land, river, sea, tribe, whakapapa, and marae, while team members from other cultures can identify places important to them and perhaps even share a little of their own language. You could also open and close meetings with a karakia, or prayer.
Employ the Māori concept of ako
In your workplace, employ the concept of ako, or learning, and open yourself up to learning from other members of the organisation. Encourage your managers to ask Māori team members and other people to teach them, so they can learn and grow.
One learner we worked with, who was a supervisor, was known for being quite shy and tended to stay hidden within the workplace. However, when it came to mihi, he became confident and was able to mentor us all. Don’t be afraid to ask for people to contribute to your learning and that of the rest of your team – collectively, we all become stronger by asking for help and opening ourselves up to learning.
By inviting everyone to share their knowledge, language, and experiences, you’re strengthening everyone’s cultural identities and confidence and bringing your team together for the betterment of your organisation.
Kiwis are learning te Reo Māori in increasing numbers – in fact, interest in learning the language has increased so much that educational facilities are struggling to keep up with demand. However, for te Reo Māori to thrive, we need to make it a normal part of Kiwis’ lives – including in the workplace. This Te Wiki o te Reo Māori, let’s all commit to ahakoa iti, ākona, kōrerotia: learn a little, use a little.