Saturday, October 07, 2006

If you're not from NZ this probably won't make much sense

This is an interesting article, and set of comments about a Tuhoe occupation.

But that's not what I'm going to blog about. One of the comments was:

Kia Ora

How can we send koha to tautoko this important kaupapa?
So the straw poll for the comments is: Am I laughing with them, or laughing at them?

This reads like someone using their entire Maori vocab in one sentance, and feeling very proud of themselves for doing so. But this is kind of the ur-example of it - to the extent that you'd think someone would have had to work really hard to create it. 'koha', 'tautoko' and 'kaupapa' are the Maori words most often used (and misused) by pakeha activists. The only reason to think that it's genuine is that if you were going to do a piss-take of Pakeha activists making themselves feel better by misusing Maori words you'd probably include 'mana'.

The wider question is whether Pakeha who don't speak Maori, but randomly insert Maori words into sentance, are always us participating in the colonial process by appropriating and misusing Maori Language or only when they do it in such an annoying way?

Note: I'm really not interested in right wing comments on this, just go away.

15 comments:

  1. Gerrit6:52 am

    I think it is more of an evolutionary process. Maori language as it goes gaining strength will find its words used by the general population. It will happen naturally.

    The distinction will be to differentiate beween when the maori words or phrases are used in a genuine sense versus a derogatory one.

    As a distinct New Zealand culture the english and maori languages will merge to form a unique derrivative language.

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  2. Anonymous10:26 am

    I would hesitate to assume that the writer is Pakeha. Many older Maori who have not been lucky enough to be part of the kura kaupapa generation and were part of the generation that were 'encouraged' to speak English are now trying to relearn the language. It seems that this generation has retained a lot of vocab but not so much grammar - leading to a lot of Maori words in English sentence structures.

    Having said that, I know what you mean about the pretentious adoption of Maori terms by Pakeha and agree that there are certain words that just scream Pakeha being tryhards. I think if the comment had used 'mana' or 'kia kaha' I might be more suspicious that this was a pisstake.

    As for the colonialism question - I certainly don't want to see a 'unique derivative language' that Gerrit suggests will come from merging English and Maori. That would be a product of colonialism because given the cultural marginalisation of maori it is likely it would just be a few Maori terms in a predominantly English language - kindof like NZ English now.

    I hope that Maori will remain a distinct language. And part of that requires everyone speaking it - Maori and Pakeha - so it becomes a normalised means of communication in NZ. At the same time, Pakeha need to recognise that speaking Maori doesn't somehow make them indigenous or Maori or subsume the cultural differences between Pakeha and Maori ('one nation crap' underpins some liberal philosophies as much as Brash-inspired rightwing ideologies). In short, cultural autonomy for Maori with Pakeha respecting Maori culture by speaking the language but not trying to co-opt that culture. Colonialism is a many-tentacled beast that still infiltrates the cultural mindset so I'm not optimistic that this will come to pass any time soon.

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  3. I agree with anonymous - I often hear 'mana' and 'kia kaha' used by Pakeha, but these particular words are less commonly used by Pakeha.

    You're right; 'kaupapa' and 'tautoko' are used incorrectly. However, in their defense, it is really difficult translating between two languages when certain concepts and ideas don't exist or are expressed differently in each language and/or the way you decline verbs, nouns and adjectives is different (also, Te Reo is a VSO language, while English is a SOV language - it's not like learning French or Spanish, where the word order is essentially the same as English).

    So I'm not keen on laughing at Pakeha who attempt to use Maori in their everyday speech (unless they are doing it in a derogatory way, in which case I wouldn't be laughing either)...everyone makes mistakes when learning a new language. My approach would be to correct them gently, so they know for next time...After all, that's how language is learned - by trial and error.

    I do think that Pakeha need to become involved in speaking Te Reo if it is to survive as a major language. And although there is some teaching of Te Reo in primary schools, it is very basic and I suspect the quantity & quality of it varies a lot. I reckon a more comprehensive programme to teach Te Reo at primary school would help in this area. Come to think of it, learning English grammar in primary school would help too...

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  4. Crap, I meant to say English is a SVO language, NOT SOV!!!

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  5. Anonymous1:30 pm

    I'm not sure that the writer is necessarily pakeha either. there are plenty of Maaori, young and old who don't speak te reo (like myself), but try and do a botch job of it.

    I went to the Victoria uni council fee rise meeting recently. The chairman spoke totally in english, except when referring to the union rep, who is Maaori. At this point I yelled something obnoxious to him about tokenism (it was suppose to be a student protest). But this happens all the time. I have had alot of pakeha activists who use more te reo around me more than they normally would for others. I notice it everytime. I don't like it very much, partly because I feel insecure about this language of mine that I don't understand, but also because I don't like being treated differently from other people because of my ethnicity. There are pakeha activists who use te reo all the time, and thats sweet.

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  6. As a distinct New Zealand culture the english and maori languages will merge to form a unique derrivative language.

    I agree. My friends and I often find that our discussions are littered with Korean words because we live in Korea and are surrounded by Korean so some of it makes it way into our vocabulary. Sometimes the useage is incorrect but then sometimes a second language learners use of English is incorrect.

    I actually think it's a good sign that more Maori is used in the NZ vocabulary as it shows that the two cultures are being shared. As for motivations, well some are doing to be pricks. But I think amongst the younger generations especially there is a genuine desire to want to learn more and reflect that aspect of our national idenity.

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  7. Suse said...
    I agree with anonymous - I often hear 'mana' and 'kia kaha' used by Pakeha, but these particular words are less commonly used by Pakeha.

    You're right; 'kaupapa' and 'tautoko' are used incorrectly. However, in their defense, it is really difficult translating between two languages when certain concepts and ideas don't exist or are expressed differently in each language and/or the way you decline verbs, nouns and adjectives is different (also, Te Reo is a VSO language, while English is a SOV language - it's not like learning French or Spanish, where the word order is essentially the same as English).

    So I'm not keen on laughing at Pakeha who attempt to use Maori in their everyday speech (unless they are doing it in a derogatory way, in which case I wouldn't be laughing either)...everyone makes mistakes when learning a new language. My approach would be to correct them gently, so they know for next time...After all, that's how language is learned - by trial and error.


    Suse, in the interest of getting it right, can you explain how the words are used incorrectly and what would have been a better sentence?

    ta,
    weka.

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  8. I'm with weka, I'm sometimes guilty of this incorrect use and would like to know how to do it right!

    I answer my phone with "kia ora" and it's interesting the reactions I get. The other day I rang somewhere, said kia ora, asked for the person I wanted and heard the person who answered the phone say scathingly (not to me) "it's some woman who said kia ora".

    Another time I was mildy abused by a caller when I said "kia ora Span speaking" when I answered my phone. Even though he wasn't calling to discuss the politics of Te Reo usage he brought this up and kept peppering the conversation with some of the other languages (Spanish, French etc, I have no idea what some of it was) he knew which made it rather torturous. He couldn't deal with the fact that I answered the phone with a non-English word.

    But at other times, when I get Maori callers, they seem to feel that I'm a bit more approachable for starting with a kia ora. Unfortunately some assume a level of fluency I definitely don't possess!

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  9. English is the language it is today because it assimilates so many words from everything it comes in contact with. I really don't see why Maori should be so much different from the others.

    I would love to see you try and write a cogent post without using any German or French words for example - just so we don't risk assimilating them or preventing them being distinct languages...

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  10. Anonymous10:24 am

    "iiq374 said...
    English is the language it is today because it assimilates so many words from everything it comes in contact with ... I would love to see you try and write a cogent post without using any German or French words for example - just so we don't risk assimilating them or preventing them being distinct languages"

    Isn't this comment just evidence of how important context is. Obviously (one would think) it would have been pretty hard for English speakers to assimilate Germans or the French considering those languages got incorporated into Englsih when those peoples invaded England. The incorporation of those languages into English had little effect on their status in the countries where they were spoken.

    Yet in NZ te reo has been actively suppressed by Pakeha in years gone past and some Pakeha like to dismiss the relevance of te reo by saying that no one speaks it and if they do it's all tranliterations anyway. Maori has incorporated words that it has come into contact with - as English did - but that doesn't mean it ceases to become a distinct language (again, English didn't either).

    The suggestion that there will be a merged "unique derivative language" smacks of Brash's "distinct south seas race" that he thinks NZ will become. It is emblematic of Pakeha desire to finally complete the colonising enterprise because it can only see NZ in terms of 'one nationist' ideology. Of course the two languages will intersect and share similarities but that doesn't mean te reo ceases to exist as a distinct language.

    Funny how with all this talk of one language, one race, one nation that the Maori (but not the Pakeha) side of each aspect is often assumed to disappear (or be incorporated so that the 'Maoriness' ceases to exist)...

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  11. actually anon it was more a comment on NZ English. Rather than on Maori disappearing althogether.

    On further reflection I think alot of whitie's use of maori is a bit laziness. Seems to me that instead of actually learning the language it's far easier for them to just throw a few words around and pretend everything is ok.

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  12. Anonymous3:08 pm

    I don't see how it's possible to deny the inevitability of a "unique derivative language". It happens everywhere that multiple languages coexist (witness the mixture of Spanish and English found in much of the United States, or South African English, or any of the many others). It also doesn't mean that any of the languages involved cease to exist on their own.

    Adoption of concepts not found in the host language also leads to the integration of words, which is what I believe "kia kaha" to be. The specific concept being expressed there just doesn't exist in "pure" English, or not without being much more wordy anyway.

    There's two concepts being conflated here, the marginalisation of the Māori language and the evolution of both languages. One doesn't require the other.

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  13. I think this is even more specific than I first thought. You see within politically active circles the words 'koha' and 'kaupapa' are used almost universally in place of their English equivalents, and often used wrongly (I'm no expert but I'm pretty sure - "this is the meeting where we'll decide our kaupapa" is using in a word in a way that you'd have to pay it extra). I don't think this is a particularly good thing - particularly as activist groups tend to be really white. But I can see the argument that language evolves and comes to mean different things.

    But I think it's a completely different matter when you are talking with Maori people about supporting their struggle. Then to misuse their language is completely disrespectful.

    I don't know for sure that it is wrong, but it does read to me like someone stringing half of their Maori phrases together to show off.

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  14. Hm, I'm now questioning what I said - I mean, when I said that 'tautoko' and 'kaupapa' were incorrectly used :(

    I don't think tautoko is used incorrectly after all (I thought the word should have been 'manaaki' but I think either could be right). As for 'kaupapa' and 'koha' - I'm not sure of their usage in this case. It's really hard to know, without knowing what the person intended to say, if you know what I mean.

    I think I'll discuss this with the Te Reo teacher at school and see what he reckons. Will post findings later.

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  15. I'd be really interested in what you found out Suse. It's not that I necessarily think that any particular word is used wrong, it's just that they don't fit together. But what do I know? (obviously enough to rant about it on the internet - but yeah - that's not much).

    I've finally figured out my real objection to the way activists use Maori words. We take a concept in English which to a greater or less extent is similar to a concept in Maori (koha to donation) and start using the Maori word - but still keep with the English concept. I think if you're going to use the Maori word you should use the Maori concept to go with it. If you're still with the English concept (because almost everyone's pakeha) then shouldn't you use the English word? Wouldn't it be better to focus on words that mean what you think they mean? (like 'kai' - everyone knows what that means - how come we eat food, but give 'koha' anyway - I'd love it if someone had studied the process by which some Maori words become adopted quite widely and which ones they were).

    I should make clear here that my Maori is appalling (too much of the time I don't even pronounce place names properly particularly those I grew up with that have R's in them). It's entirely possible that I'm wrong about the meaning of these words, and even if I'm right I could probably have better spent the time better learning better what the three words mean.

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