Is the Maori language easy to learn

The Maori language

Like the language of many other indigenous people, Maori is considered threatened. The younger generation in particular is no longer able to speak the language of their ancestors, as most of them grow up speaking English.

Strictly speaking, only older Maori can actually be called native speakers today, although Te Reo Maori has been the official language of New Zealand alongside English since 1987.

European settlers forbid the native language

Until the European settlers arrived in New Zealand in the late 18th century, Maori was the only language spoken there - no other language affected them and it was accordingly unique.

However, soon after their arrival, the Europeans began to exert an influence: English missionaries first wrote down the Maori, which up to this point had only been spoken, and introduced schools for the local population. From 1867 onwards, teaching was exclusively in English and the use of Maori was even made a criminal offense.

The consequence: More and more Maori were learning English instead of their own language. Serious efforts to save the Te Reo Maori have only been made since the 1960s.

The number of Maori speakers today is unclear

Since then there have been, for example, pure Maori primary schools and also bilingual classes. In addition, radio and television stations offer programs in Maori.

The 2013 census found that around 125,000 people still speak Maori in New Zealand - with large regional differences. The language is most common in the north and east of the North Island. Maori is also spoken in most of the country's urban centers.

However, the number of 125,000 Maori speakers should be treated with caution: Another survey came to the result that only just under 30,000 people actually use the language in everyday life. For comparison: Around 800,000 people in New Zealand are part of the Maori population, around 16.5 percent of all New Zealanders.

But 90 percent of the Maori population today speak English - and their own language often only plays a role in ritual customs.

The intonation is similar to that in German

Maori phrases for everyday use are generally not too difficult to learn because the grammatical structure of Maori is not as complex as that of other Polynesian languages. It is now considered to be the language that has best preserved the original Polynesian sounds.

In Te Reo Maori, the vowels (a, e, i, o, u) are emphasized and pronounced similarly to German - which is why it is easier for German-speaking people than English-speaking people to learn the correct pronunciation. There are ten consonants in Maori, s and d do not exist. As a rule, in every syllable a consonant is followed by a vowel or the syllable consists of just one vowel.

Mutual influence of Maori and English

Maori and New Zealand English influenced each other: Since many things today could no longer be expressed in original Maori terms, around 20,000 new Maori words were created over time. Many of them are based on the sound of English terms. An example: "Tiamani" is the Maori word for "Germany", that is, Germany.

On the other hand, some expressions from the language of the indigenous people of New Zealand have found their way into the everyday life of New Zealanders: The greeting "Kia ora!" ("Hello!"), For example, is not only used by the Maori, but is a widespread greeting in New Zealand.

And most of the native animals and plants have English names that come from the language of the New Zealand natives.