Five ways to support te reo Māori every day

Eleanor Meecham | September 10, 2018

Te reo Māori is flourishing in Aotearoa. Whether you know a little or a lot, it’s important to get the basics right. Here are five simple ways you can support te reo each day — in your work or at home.

1. Spell Māori words correctly

Te Aka Māori Dictionary is your go-to source for spelling Māori words. Add it as a favourite to your browser. Te Aka also comes as an app for your smartphone, so you can find out the meaning of Māori words in the world around you.

Te Aka Māori Dictionary

iPhone app

Android app

2. Pronounce Māori words correctly

Every entry in Te Aka includes audio of the word read by a native speaker, so you can easily check correct pronunciation. Just click on the microphone symbol next to the word you’ve searched for. Try it for words you’ve known all your life — the correct pronunciation might surprise you.

Image, Dictionary entry for 'wētā' from Te Aka Māori Dictionary, showing audio file.

Image, Baby wētā on someone's hand.

The humble wētā — pronounced with long vowels. Image by Auckland Photo News / CC-BY-2.0

3. Use macrons

Macrons, or tohutō, indicate long vowel sounds. They’re essential for clarifying how Māori words should be pronounced, which is especially important for words with similar spelling.

kaka (clothing)
kākā (large native forest parrot)
kakā (hot, inflamed)
kāka (brown bittern — a rare bird living in swamps)

Use Te Aka to check for macrons, even for words you think you know well. Many commonly used Māori words require macrons: tēnā koe, kōrero, whānau, hapū, Pākehā.

4. Form plurals of Māori words correctly

Plurals don’t take an ‘s’ in Māori. The context shows whether a word is plural.

The kiwi is settling into its new environment.
The kiwi are in the nocturnal house with our three tuatara.

Image, Painting of two kiwi in a landscape by John Gerrard Keulemans, 1873.

Image by John Gerrard Keulemans / no known copyright restrictions

5. Capitalise Māori words correctly

Capitalise Māori words exactly as you capitalise English words. That means using lower case except for starting sentences and for proper nouns (names of particular people, places, or things).

tangata whenua
te reo Māori
Tāmaki Makaurau
Ngāi Tahu
Dame Whina Cooper
Te Tiriti o Waitangi
Te Puni Kōkiri

Capital ‘K’ for ‘kiwi’? When do you need one?

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