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Christchurch staff continue Te Reo lessons online

Monday 20 April 2020 11:59am

Professor Doug Sellman of the University of Otago’s Christchurch campus runs a weekly te reo Māori class for his colleagues. These are continuing via Zoom during lockdown. Communications Adviser Kim Thomas is one of about 20 Christchurch staff taking part and shares her experiences with the Otago Bulletin Board.

A chalk message drawn by Christchurch Communications Adviser Kim Thomas’ children during lockdown.

Kei te pēhea koe? (How are you? How are you feeling?)

It’s a simple phrase and an important one to ask in our current situation. But for some reason I always stumble over pronouncing ‘pēhea’ during my te reo lessons.

I work at the University of Otago, Christchurch, and take part in the campus’ weekly te reo lessons. Led by Professor Doug Sellman, the classes involve about 20 of us eager learners in a meeting room for 45 minutes, practising common phrases and mihi, and honing our pronunciation.

Since the lockdown, we’ve continued our classes online. A mass of faces with headsets all enthusiastically repeating words and phrases after Doug.

It’s nice to keep learning even though we’re stuck at home, and to be able to involve other members of the whanau in one small part of work life.

I asked my two primary-school-aged daughters to join me at this week’s session. They were a bit embarrassed at first but quickly got into the swing of things. I was surprised at how much they knew. And how good their pronunciation was. I knew they did te reo at school but wasn’t sure how much it extended beyond crafting their mihi.

My tamāhine confidently counted and repeated karakia and mihi, while I stumbled along, regularly referring to the ‘Beginner’s Course in Te Reo’ booklet in my hand.

Today we practised some ways to describe our work and home situations. Ko Kim Thomas toku ingoa. No Otautahi to taua kainga. E mahi ana ahau o Te Whare Wananga o Otakou ki Otautahi. My name is Kim Thomas. My home is in Christchurch. I work at the University of Otago, Christchurch.

My basics are a bit rough and need some prompt attention, especially my counting. I’m going to take up Doug’s suggestion and count backwards in Te Reo to put myself to sleep. Or say house numbers in te reo when I go out for my daily walk around the neighbourhood.

After the session finished, I asked my girls ‘Kei te pēhea koe?’ “Hiakai!,” they both shouted. And with that, te reo lessons were over and we were off to the kitchen to feed their rumbling puku.