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Stacey applies the “five-plus a day” kaupapa to growing our te reo vocabulary.

“Minimum effort, maximum results” is always an appealing proposition, isn’t it?

No matter what the kaupapa (subject, topic), the idea of a delicious shortcut always appeals. Diet, exercise and work are always constant kaupapa in our lives and that’s why we’re often advertised easy ways to improve in those area, with the least amount of effort.

When it comes to language learning, it’s the same. We all want to know how we can score some quick wins and expedite our progress. It’s especially understandable at the moment, with time sitting differently through Covid lockdowns, to want to feel like you’re making good headway, with pace.

So, I thought about the “five-plus a day” kaupapa, reminding us to eat at least five huarākau (fruit) and huawhenua (vegetables) a day, and it made me think, there’s usually a top five of things we talk about most often as well. So, if we can identify those top kaupapa, we have some sure-fire words and sentences we’ll definitely use.

For instance, I can name the five huarākau and huawhenua my kids like very easily, and they’re all words I say often as a result. You can name the top five of any topic you talk about a lot, make sure you have the te reo Māori vocabulary for those things and then you’ve got some instant go-to sentences that you’re sure to use, because they’re your favourites.

Let’s start with huarākau and huawhenua, seeing as we’re in that department. The five most popular in our house at the moment are āporo (apple), ārani (orange), rōpere (strawberry), harore (mushroom) and maika or panana (banana). Now you’ve got those handy, high-usage words sorted, let’s take just one sentence structure they can all slip into.

He āporo māu? (Would you like an apple?) “He __ māu” is a really easy way to offer someone food – simply insert the name of that food into the gap. He ārani māu? (Would you like an orange); He rōpere māu? (Would you like a strawberry?)

Then, if you want to ask for that food to eat, just change one word: He āporo māku (I’ll have an apple). Your tone of voice can make it a question, or a hopeful encouragement. I use it when I’m after a coffee and my husband is near the kitchen. I will ask, “He kawhe māku?” (Can I have a coffee?) You can imagine my smiling face and hopeful tone as I say it.

We really are following a five-plus format here, because we’ve just created 10 instant sentences, offering those foods, and then asking for them too.

Manners are definitely present and important in te reo Māori. Probably the most common nicety you’ll hear is “tēnā koa” for please. We’ve taught our kids to say that because we know they need that reference to “please” that’s expected in English. I would say though, as long as your tone of voice is respectful, it’s not rude to say, “He āporo māku” (An apple for me), as the please is inferred, but not necessarily said.

The equivalent for “thank you” is easy. You can say “kia ora” to give thanks, and also “tēnā koe” when thanking one person. Our kids know we expect that nicety in either language, for sure.

Could I also take a moment now to farewell a top-five character in magazine editors, our wonderful Sido Kitchin.

He hono tangata e kore e motu; kāpā he taura waka e motu. (Connections between people cannot be severed whereas those of a canoe rope can.)

Thank you so much, Sido, for the connection we’ve long shared, and will continue to.


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