Maori mispronunciation: What it looks like in Aotearoa

by Te Aniwa Hurihanganui / 14 September, 2017

Illustration /  Te Hana Goodyer

Travel to any corner of this country, listen closely and you might hear it.

It’s the sound of Māori names being mangled by the mouths of so many New Zealanders.

Aotearoa was founded on a document which promised Māori the protection of their taonga. Yet 177 years after the signing of the Treaty, perhaps the most precious taonga of them all, te reo Māori, is still being butchered.

Ignorance, intolerance, laziness, lack of knowledge – whatever the reason behind it occurring, one thing is certain: mispronouncing Māori names has a damaging effect for many Māori.

Ngaiwa Marshall-Lobb from Palmerston-North grew up in a Māori world. His education spanned kōhanga reo, to kura kaupapa and later Hato Paora high school.

Each place was rich in te reo Māori, brown faces, waiata, karakia, and tikanga. All of these things, in his eyes, were a reality he believed to be the norm. But one encounter as a young teenager changed that view.

It started with a cup.

It had Ngaiwa’s name on it as a way for the café worker to make sure that the cup would end up in his hands during the busy lunch-hour.

He waited a short-while, until a name was called aloud – one Ngaiwa had never heard before, but one which vaguely resembled his own.

He says he sat there for fifteen minutes not knowing she was talking about him.

“After a while I went up to her and said, ‘I’m waiting for a coffee for Ngaiwa please’, and she told me she had just thrown it away because she had called the name on the cup but no one came to collect it.”

A small encounter which had a rippling effect, Ngaiwa says. 

“Now when people I don’t know ask what my name is in places like that I give them “Noah” or some other name so I don’t have to get into awkward situations.” 

Illustration / Te Hana Goodyer

Mariarangi Carkeek is well-acquainted with these sorts of situations.  

One experience etched in her memory is of a high school maths teacher who mispronounced her name once too often.

“One day I told her, you know what, you can come up with a name for me and you can call me that for the rest of my college years, because I just can’t deal with this anymore.”

For the next two years that teacher referred to Mariarangi as Tess. It was way easier, Mariarangi recalls her teacher saying.

“She even had me on the roll as Tess. She just never tried. There were other Māori students in the class but they all had little nicknames.”

Te Rangikauia Tipene shared a similar experience at a predominantly Pākehā school with her chemistry teacher.

She says being Māori already made her feel out of place at the school and the feeling worsened when her peers could not pronounce her name and did not put any effort into doing so.

“It got to a point where my teacher would go through the roll calling out everyone’s name but when it came to mine she just looked up, saw me, and said ‘yup she’s here’ so that she didn’t have to say it.”

She says her teacher’s lack of effort it made her feel embarrassed to have a Māori name.

“She gave me the impression that it wasn’t important to learn my name and it affected my learning because I didn’t feel comfortable around her.”

She hopes one day people won’t have to ask her for a nickname they could use instead.

“There’s no better feeling then someone making the effort to say your name correctly. It always makes me feel more comfortable, more at ease and more appreciative of others.”

This article was originally published by The Wireless.

MostReadArticlesCollectionWidget - Most Read - Used in articles
AdvertModule - Advert - M-Rec / Halfpage

Latest

When Sir Bob Jones met Muhammad Ali
81845 2017-10-23 00:00:00Z Books

When Sir Bob Jones met Muhammad Ali

by Bob Jones

A new biography finds fault with the legendary fighter, but praise wins by a mile.

Read more
Announcing the finalists of the NZ Craft Awards 2017
81876 2017-10-23 00:00:00Z Culture

Announcing the finalists of the NZ Craft Awards 20…

by NZTV Craft Awards

The finalists of the New Zealand Craft Awards have been announced and here is the complete list.

Read more
Hand, foot and mouth disease is not nearly as scary it seems
81868 2017-10-23 00:00:00Z Health

Hand, foot and mouth disease is not nearly as scar…

by Ruth Nichol

It sounds alarmingly like foot and mouth disease, but all they have in common is they are viral.

Read more
What to do in Auckland if you're a local who wants the tourist experience
81902 2017-10-23 00:00:00Z Travel

What to do in Auckland if you're a local who wants…

by Pamela Wade

After living in Auckland for almost 25 years, Pamela Wade decides to reacquaint herself with the city where she still feels like a stranger.

Read more
The Lesley Calvert cold case: 40 years of torment
80160 2017-10-22 00:00:00Z Crime

The Lesley Calvert cold case: 40 years of torment

by Chris Birt

The mum-of-three was found on a hillside in sight of her farmhouse where she'd disappeared 7 months earlier. Suspicions swirled, but no answers found.

Read more
When I went to Rimutaka Prison for a three-course meal
81858 2017-10-22 00:00:00Z Food

When I went to Rimutaka Prison for a three-course …

by Lauraine Jacobs

A three-course meal inside prison walls proves a rewarding experience for food columnist Lauraine Jacobs.

Read more
The Lundy murders: Inside the case that gripped the nation for 17 years
81945 2017-10-21 07:23:00Z Crime

The Lundy murders: Inside the case that gripped th…

by Anne Marie May

A court reporter who's covered both of Mark Lundy's High Court trials looks at how the case has evolved, as the Court of Appeal deliberates his fate.

Read more
The Weinstein scandal is no surprise to this prominent NZ employment lawyer
81809 2017-10-21 00:00:00Z Social issues

The Weinstein scandal is no surprise to this promi…

by Mai Chen

In 25 years of law practice, Mai Chen has helped many women – very often senior employees – who have suffered from sexual harassment.

Read more