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Te reo Māori at Nicholson Consulting

It's been a huge week for te reo Māori in Aotearoa!

  • Te Wiki o te Reo Māori kicked off on Monday September 12th

  • Wednesday September 14 marked the 50th anniversary of the Māori Language Petition

  • We’re currently in the middle of Mahuru, the month when Aotearoa is challenged to speak more te reo Māori

To tautoko this momentous week, we thought it would be a great time to reflect on Nicholson Consulting’s own te reo Māori haerenga (journey) so far.

Earlier this year, the talented Shanara Wallace joined us as Pou Whanake. Since then, Shanara has been running Akoranga Reo Māori, our weekly te reo Māori classes at Nicholson Consulting. There are three different class levels on offer for our kaimahi – beginner, intermediate, and advanced – and all are encouraged to participate at the level they feel most comfortable.

We sat down with Shanara to learn about her experience and any challenges she faces when it comes to teaching te reo Maori. We also spoke to a few members of our team to discover more about their own te reo Māori journeys - and gleaned lots of wisdom along the way!


Kia ora Shanara! Tell us a bit about yourself? How did you get into teaching te reo Maori?

Tēnā tātou e hoa mā, ngā mihi maioha i tēnei wiki whakanui i te 50 tau o te petihana reo Māori!

(I’ve included a quick re-introduction of myself below in case you haven’t read our Matariki piece - which you should check out after you read this!)

Heoi, ko Shanara Wallace tōku ingoa, he uri au nō ngā iwi o Ngāti Ruanui, Ngā Rauru, Ngāti Tūwharetoa me Ngāti Kahungunu ki Heretaunga, ki Wairarapa hoki. E mahi ana au hei pou whanake ki Nicholson Consulting, ā, ko āku mahi matua ki tēnei tūranga, he whakawhanake i te reo Māori, i te ahurea Māori, i ngā kaupapa Māori, i ngā kaimahi Māori hoki ki tō mātou tari, kia pai tā mātou mahi tahi ki a Ngāi Māori i ā mātou mahi katoa.

I had the privilege of being raised in kohanga reo and kura kaupapa Māori. It was important to both of my parents that my tuakana (older sister) and I would be confident in our ability to kōrero Māori as this was something that they did not have.

Fast forward about two decades, I’m a tauira (student) at Te Whare Wānanga o Te Herenga Waka – Victoria University of Wellington – and being exposed to some of the best kaiako reo Māori I had experienced yet! It was through these kaiako that I began to really develop an appreciation for the reo (language) that I had been raised with and realised that I had been taking it for granted for many years.

Here's where the stumbling began: a close friend to my tuakana needed cover for her te reo Māori class that she was teaching at the time. Although I was very apprehensive, after a bit of encouragement and reassurance from my tuakana and her hoa (friend) I agreed to take on the challenge of teaching my first beginner class. Surprise surprise, I absolutely loved it (this pattern would continue to repeat for my first few classes, and still sometimes to this day - apprehension, nerves, reassurance, and then absolutely loving the mahi).

To be in a space where I could share my reo Māori with others who were hungry for it was eye opening, and in return I was challenged to improve my own linguistic understanding of te reo Māori, which furthered my love and appreciation for our reo. And that was the beginning of my mahi as a kaiako reo Māori!

Although I’m still very new to teaching and still building on my own reo Māori, I feel so lucky to be in a space now where I can support others at the various stages of their journey.

What are the learning goals that you focus on when teaching te reo?

There are of course the linguistic goals at each level, such as correct pronunciation, learning various sentence structures, growing tauira (student) vocab and learning whakatauki (proverbial saying), kīwaha (idioms) and karakia (prayers). However, my personal goal across all levels of our akoranga reo Māori is to foster the love for te reo Māori me ōnā tikanga and to encourage a safe space for each of our kaimahi to have a go and explore their own relationship with te reo Māori.

What are some of the challenges of teaching te reo Maori? How do you address these challenges?

Initially the most difficult part of teaching te reo Māori at a beginner level was trying to process the difficulties of learning a second language or third language as adults. As I previously mentioned, I grew up with the language, so I didn’t have any personal experiences with learning te reo Māori. I’ve found that listening to tauira and being open to tweaking my teaching style has been most helpful for addressing this challenge.

As I watch our kaimahi grow and hear their reo develop, another challenge arises and that is the implementation of te reo Māori out of the classroom. Fortunately at Nicholson Consulting we are all on this journey together and there is shared respect and support for each other regardless of where individuals are on their own journey, which makes my mahi as a kaiako far easier.

What advice would you give to someone on their reo journey?

Be kind to yourself

It will get harder before it gets easier and there is so much frustration around language learning. You might go from discussing complex kaupapa (subjects) in your first language to reading children's books and struggling to piece together a sentence in te reo Māori. Know that this is where language learning starts, so take it easy on yourself and show some empathy for yourself as you take on this massive challenge.

Find your haumi.

Haumi are your allies (kind of ironic that this kupu is pronounced like the English word “homies”, but at least you’re not likely to forget it)! Identify who the haumi are for you in your reo journey and bring them on-board. Set up kōrero dates, share you kupu hou, practice new phrases and hold each other accountable.

Celebrate every little win.

No matter your level of proficiency, your reo journey will have its ups and downs, so celebrate all those wins, regardless of how small they may seem to be – and enjoy all of the learning opportunities.

You just delivered your mihi or pepeha? Celebration time!

You’re listening to someone kōrero Māori (speaking Māori) and realise you understand some of the words? Celebration time!

You just tried out that kupu hou(new word) in a sentence? You guessed it - celebration time!

Language trauma is Real.

This is particularly written for those who whakapapa Māori, those who are Māori.

Our reo was not something that was passively lost, it was systematically eradicated, and the impacts of this eradication can still be felt today. As stated by Stacey Morrison in the latest documentary to celebrate 50 years since the Māori Language Petition was presented at Parliament, ‘Speak no Māori”.

It was an active removal, enacted in physically violent ways”.

This removal has had a profound impact on the way we might view ourselves as Māori, our place in the world and how we might approach te reo Māori. Many of us have our own history with te reo Māori that impacts our learning journey now. When we as Māori are learning te reo Māori, we face all of this, on top of the general challenges of language learning and language anxiety.

My one piece of advice here is that te reo Māori is yours and always will be yours, to reclaim, to speak, to listen to and to share with your whānau. Ko te reo Māori te tatau ki te ao Māori - The language is the doorway into the Māori world and that doorway is always open for you.


Ka pai Shanara and thank you so much for your insights e hoa!

Read on to learn about the te reo Māori journeys of Arianna our HR coordinator, Jontelle our Project Manager, and Bernadette our CEO.


Kia ora Arianna! When did you first start learning te reo Māori?

I had bouts of learning te reo through school, at both Intermediate and College. These were only 1-2 classes a week, which were compulsory at Intermediate and optional at College. Once I left college, I wasn’t exposed to it again until I started working for Nicholson Consulting in 2020, where I was introduced back into learning the language through weekly 1-hour lessons.

What are some of your learning goals/motivations for learning te reo Māori? How have these changed from when you first started learning (if at all)? 

As a tangata Māori myself, I am motivated to learn more about the history of the language, and more specifically that within my own whānau. My goal is to use it in everyday speech, and I want to be able to confidently hold a conversation in te reo. Eventually I would love to be fluent, baby steps!

What are some of the most exciting/interesting aspects of learning te reo Maori? 

How beautiful the language is and the importance it has on me and my whānau. The deepness/richness of te reo words and phrases are amazing. I live with my tuākana (older sister), her partner and their two tamariki who are all on their own reo journey. Watching my irāmutu (niece and nephew) speak and understand the language at the age of 2 and 4 is extremely inspiring.

Nicholson Consulting, for me personally, is an amazing workplace to be a part of in terms of introducing the language back into my life, through the passion and knowledge of our hoamahi. I’m also a member at and working part-time as a Group Fitness Instructor at a gym that is Māori and Pasifika owned. To be immersed in two companies that are so passionate about the culture and its language has been so exciting and refreshing. “Ehara taku toa, he takitahi, he toa takitini” – My success is not that of my own, but that of a collective

Based on your experiences so far, what advice would you give to someone who is on their te reo Māori journey? 

Keep using the language, keep striving to learn more about the language - there’s so much to learn and many resources out there. Don’t compare the level you are at to the level anyone else is at, we’re all on our own haerenga (journey).


Kia ora e Jontelle! When did you first start learning te reo Māori?

I was placed in Kohanga at a very young age where I had exposure to learning te reo māori. I continued learning te reo through kura until I was about 16years of age and this is when I decided to put aside my Te Reo Māori and completely focus on my what I thought was important at the time. As years passed on, I forgot how to speak fluently but manged to still have an ear for it. Once I joined Nicholson Consulting in 2022, I was given the opportunity to reignite my reo by attending our Te Reo classes

What are some of your learning goals/motivations for learning te reo? How have these changed from when you first started learning (if at all)?

When I was younger, I wasn’t aware of the privilege I had being able to learn and speak Te Reo and the importance of how this was a huge connection to my identity and whanau. I now realise it is important for me to reconnect and develop the connection for my tamariki and future generations following them.

What are some of the things you find challenging about learning te reo? How have these changed from when you first started learning?

Te Reo has evolved so much since I was young, and some dialects are different from what I remember or maybe I have just forgotten but re-learning Te Reo sometimes has me trying to figure out the missing puzzle pieces or possibly correcting some pieces that have been muddled overtime. At times it can get confusing, and I may need to go over things more than once, but I accept that this is all part of learning.

What are some of the most exciting/interesting aspects of learning te reo Māori?

Reconnecting with my identity is a huge plus but having the opportunity to learn te reo for the second time at a more mature age and knowing the importance of it is liberating.

Based on your experiences so far, what advice would you give to someone who is on their te reo Māori journey?

Learning Te Reo is not just learning a language it can provide so much more and at times we may be challenged but learning something new or again is always a challenge. Accept the challenge and in the end, you can feel all the mauri and mana the language can provide as well as a connection you may not have had before.


Kia ora e Bernie! When did you first start learning te reo?

Similar to many, I have had various exposures to learning te reo intermittently, whether this be through kapa haka at school or in some work capacities. My dedicated learning really began with our lessons provided here at Nicholson Consulting. We are fortunate enough to have our own Pou Whanake - Shanara who provides three levels of teaching, across four classes – removing any potential access barriers. Further, I am additionally blessed to be able to have weekly 1:1s with Shanara, which I can use to either support my te reo learning or to enhance my cultural competency.

What are some of your motivations for learning te reo Maori?

As a leader of an organisation within New Zealand, I do believe I have a duty to enhance my understanding of te ao Māori. I don’t think I could do this justice without also learning te reo, given that language is more than learning words and syntax – language is an expression of culture.

What are some of the most interesting aspects of learning te reo Maori?

It is a beautiful language steeped in symbolism. I am loving learning the wonderful whakataukī which keep me thinking just that wee bit longer.

Is there any advice you would like to share for others at the beginning of their reo journey?

You are going to make mistakes, you are going to sound silly at times, but just keep at it!


Thanks again to Shanara, Arianna, Jontelle, and Bernie for sharing those beautiful thoughts, insights and experiences!

We hope that after reading this post you feel motivated to start or continue your own te reo Māori haerenga. Kia kaha te reo Māori!

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