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Noho Marae Experience in Kaikoura

27 June, 2019

Ko taku reo taku ohooho, ko taku reo taku mapihi mauria

My language is my awakening, my language is the window to my soul

Some people wouldn’t feel comfortable sleeping in the same room with over 40 others, especially if they are your fellow students and tutors. Combining that challenge with speaking a language that is not your first language might be daunting.

But not for over 40 of our Te Reo Māori students. The group, including tutors from Te Puna Wanaka, went on a Noho Marae (overnight stay) to Takahange Marae in Kaikōura in mid-June and certificate student Lyndon Rogers said it was one of the best experiences.

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“We went up there for a couple of nights, armed with earplugs because you definitely needed them to sleep in the marae. The trip was phenomenal, the marae was epic and the kai was brilliant. I would absolutely go again,” said Rogers.

Tutor Charmaine Tukua said this very first marae stay was organised because over the years Te Reo Māori students have been saying they would like more time and spaces to practice their language skills.

“What they specifically asked was for us to create a community where it is safe for them to practice their Te Reo. That was our main goal over the weekend, to create a Te Reo speaking community and safe space so our new learners feel comfortable enough to practice.”

The purpose of the trip was also for the students to learn more about the region, the marae and the local iwi. The students participated in classes and discussions during the day and were shown around the places they learnt about.

The teachings were based around the language and included setting a table or baking a sourdough bread with Te Reo instructions. The students also had the task of presenting their mihi before the end of the weekend.

Rogers, who has only been learning Te Reo Māori for about five months, said he never felt his language skills were not enough, he simply concentrated on what he did know.

“You put a lot of effort in to speak Te Reo at all times but obviously it’s not everyone’s first language. So when you have to do your pepeha or your mihi in front of 40 other people it’s quite nerve wrecking. But the environment we were in was warm and friendly and people were so affirming that in the end it wasn’t such a worry.”

The stay brought the students from a number of different Te Reo courses closer together.

“My relationships with other students have grown so much stronger - it's a big deal to learn and make mistakes in a new language in front of other people! I'd definitely do a noho marae experience again with everyone there, except the odd snorer!" said Rogers.

Manager of Te Puna Wanaka at Ara, Heperi Harris, said this trial stay at the marae went really well and the students gained insight from their time at the marae.

“Our Te Reo Māori programmes were designed to get students marae-ready and for them to have sufficient knowledge about maraes. They are learning more about Māori society and how we structure things. Anyone who works and deals with Māori is expected to know structures and have local knowledge.

“By staying in the marae we want to teach the students skills like how to process information that is given to them about the region and how they can acknowledge them in their mihi. When our students take on a role that has a language or culture component there is an expectation that you know these things.”

Harris said future marae stays to engage with communities in Port Levy and Timaru are currently being planned for later in the year.