Age is no barrier to learning te reo


12 September 2019



Ned Tapa and Ailsa Stewart.

Ned Tapa and Ailsa Stewart.

More than 70 years after learning her first words in English, Ailsa Stewart is learning te reo Māori.


Miss Stewart, who is Whanganui District Health Board’s volunteer archivist, asked if she could join te reo evening classes run for staff.


“I’m loving it. It is so interesting, as you learn about the background to words, about the culture and the way of thinking, as well as phrases and waiata. I only wish I had started years ago,” she says.


When she talks about the classes to her friends and acquaintances, she says they are also really interested in learning te reo.


The DHB has been running te reo courses in conjunction with UCOL for three years.


WDHB Haumoana Whānau Navigator Ned Tapa says he and Haumoana Educator Mal Rerekura, who co-teach the wananga, weave tikanga into the language courses.


“We are aiming to improve people’s confidence and appreciation of te reo so they can use kupu every day. Of course, in ten weeks you’re not going to become fluent, but even if our staff become more confident to greet people, it’s a great start. It is all part of making the hospital and our health services more welcoming and accessible,” says Mr Tapa.


WDHB is also encouraging all staff to practice the language by reading street and place names aloud, listening to Māori radio and television and using freely available apps. 


“It is surprising what people can pick up by being exposed to the language and practicing pronunciation,” Mr Tapa says.


The DHB runs beginners and intermediate level classes over ten weeks. Staff attend in their own time and receive a certificate at the end.