By Te Karere


A Pākehā historian claims that the Māori language faces extinction as a living language.

The finding stems from Dr Paul Moon’s new book ‘Killing Te Reo Māori’ which says revitalisation efforts focus too much on pronunciation. 

“If the language was a patient it would now be on life support.”

According to Dr Paul Moon's latest book 'Killing Te Reo Māori' there is far too much focus going into pronunciation

“It's that flexibility that enables it to survive. I'm not saying that we shouldn't make the effort, but what does happen in some cases is that some people try really hard to pronounce a word and they don't get it quite right they think 'oh, failed'. And then they sort of walk away from the language.”

Moon has been researching this topic for five years and he totally disagrees with the compulsion of te reo in all schools.

“If you look at compulsion of indigenous languages in places like Wales, Ireland, Luxembourg, Tamil in Singapore, there's lots of examples. Everywhere it's been tried, it's failed. If you make it compulsory here in schools, policymakers and politicians will wipe their hands and say we've done our bit, that's fine. And if it fails, it's someone else's fault.”

Moon has spent a lot of effort in his research and says initiatives like Māori Language Week aren't particularly successful.

“We're going to get people to use a particular phrase in te reo for this week, Māori Language Week, or whatever. That sounds great, and people tick it off as a success. But does it lead to the language being revitalised? No it doesn't.”

He believes that many of the initiatives aimed to save the language are having the opposite effect.

“These initiatives are seen as something that policy makers and politicians can tick off, they can say 'we've done this now'. We've satisfied those people who are concerned about language because we've put resources into Māori Language Week. It should be Māori language year.”

Moon also says the government needs to put more thought into ensuring the survival of the language so that it doesn't die out or become a foreigner in its own country.