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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 9, Issue 12 (March 1, 1935)

Teaching the Language

Teaching the Language.

Lord Bledisloe, in his capacity of Governor-General, never let slip an opportunity of urging the cultivation of the Maori traditions and poetical and artistic lore, and also the Maori language. In his farewell address to the Waikato Maoris, an address directed also at the pakehas of the Dominion, he appealed once more to the people to adhere to the best things of the past, and in particular the Maori tongue. He emphasised the lamentable neglect of the language, and regretted the fact that “few public men in New Zealand can speak the beautiful Maori tongue, and therefore few can put themselves in the Maori's place and find out what his true aspirations are.” He hoped, for the sake not only of the Maori people but of all sections of the community, that a greater knowledge of the Maori language and customs would be developed.

Wise counsel from a great man who has shown again and again during his sojourn with us that he is heart and soul a patriotic New Zealander as well as an Englishman. He has indicated a great defect in our system of education. The Maori population is increasing steadily; it will not be many years, at the present rate of progress, before it is up to 100,000. The Maori has regained the old zest in life, the will to get on and become a strong people again, and the importance of education in all forms of native culture is gradually being realised.

But education lags behind. The language is not encouraged by the bodies that control the schooling of the New Zealander, either in the primary or the secondary Schools. Indeed I know that it is actively discouraged in some native schools. I have even heard of Maori children being forbidden to speak their own tongue in the playground. The idea is that they hear enough Maori at home, and that every effort should be made at school to concentrate on English. The intention may be good, but the effect is to make the children rather ashamed of their parent tongue.