The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 12, Issue 3 (June 1, 1937)
the native tongue
the native tongue.
For many a year I have written on the subject of the Maori language and urged that not only should it be taught in the native schools, but that it should be included in the general education scheme and given a place at least equal to that of any foreign language. It is, in my view, more important to preserve and popularise the original tongue of the country than to insist on college students spending years on the study of French. It may seem incredible that Maori is not only not taught in native schools, but it has actually been discouraged in some of them. The effect has been, of course, to make the Maori children ashamed of their mother tongue, a complaint that has often been voiced by their disgusted elders.
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Now I am glad to see that some of the younger generation of our Maori people are championing the effort to give the language its rightful place in the national education plan. Mr. C. Bennett, son of the Right Reverend F. Bennett, the first Bishop of Aotearoa, in an address at Hastings lately urged that Maori should be taught in the schools and placed on at least the same plane as foreign languages. He pointed out that French and other languages were of very little practical value to those who were taught them in college. It was at any rate necessary that the pronunciation of Maori should be taught in schools.
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With Mr. Bennett's plea “Tohunga” is, of course, in complete agreement. The Maori language is of more actual use to the New Zealander than French is, because it is to some extent before him daily, in the form of place-names. Many of these names are habitually mispronounced, and it is desirable therefore that the correct pronunciation should be taught. The place to begin is in the public schools; or rather in the training colleges in which young men and women qualify for the work of teaching in the primary schools. Few teachers can pronounce Maori accurately; fewer still have any idea of the meanings of names that are constantly before their eyes in the papers. This condition of popular ignorance about the language that belongs to a population which is increasing at a faster rate than the pakeha, is not creditable to the country.