I have been doing a lot of reflecting on my te reo Māori learning this year. The importance of learning te reo Māori has been discussed in previous CORE blogs by Wawaro Te Whaiti and Rochelle Savage. Key ideas mentioned in these blogs are the benefits for your first language and future language learning.
This year, I have had the pleasure of co-facilitating CORE Education’s te reo Māori courses: Te Reo Puāwai Māori and Te Manahua Māori. These courses are aimed at beginner level speakers of te reo Māori, with both courses spanning 10 weeks and involving a blended approach to learning te reo Māori. Here are some of my reflections.
Kanohi ki te kanohi (Face to face)
“The face-to-face time at the initial hui was excellent.”
The blended approach of online and face-to-face learning was chosen to allow flexible access and completion for those taking the course. As a teacher, the opportunity to meet with everyone at the start was key to the success of the courses; both online courses began with a face-to-face hui where the students had an opportunity to meet each other and the teachers. Learners on both online courses engaged with the content and each other through the Moodle platform. Making active and empathetic connections at the start ensured the online environment was safe and fun. Participation in the online forums was high, and everyone shared their learning for the benefit of all. You cannot underestimate the value of getting to know people first through sharing their stories. Learning and laughing together assisted us all in learning te reo Māori as well as about each other — a critical aspect of sharing our Māori values of manaakitanga and fostering whanaungatanga.
Tūwhitia te hopo (Feel the fear and do it anyway)
“They challenged me to motivate myself and push myself to speak in te reo, which was what I needed.”
At the initial hui, learners set goals relating to the course and how they planned to meet these. The learner goal-setting exercise enabled me as a teacher to understand where everyone was positioned, and to leverage off these starting points as a source of motivation, by honing in on their intrinsic motivation. The desire to confidently say their mihi or to have a basic kōrero was the motivation for enrolling in these courses. My experiences as a second-language learner and teacher are providing the biggest opportunity for learners to get over the initial fear of speaking a new language and develop language fluency. There is a wide range of resources in the courses such as the CORE Education podcast — 100 % success in language learning — which helps students to challenge their thinking about learning languages.
The benefits of technology in these courses reinforced how they can support language learning, motivate themselves, and banish any fears. During the course, we had a weekly webinar to reinforce the learning and to kōrero Māori. The opportunity to hear and practise te reo Māori in a safe environment helped dispel any fears and improve confidence. Each topic covered included sound files of any te reo Māori in the course, and a podcast outlining the week’s content , including a chance to hear more te reo Māori. This quote sums up why we included these:
“I like how you can go through all the resources in your own time. I really like having them on Soundcloud so I can listen while I am driving.”
Throughout the course, we invited learners to record themselves speaking in te reo Māori and to upload their personal recordings to a forum for feedback. This is nothing new, but this was such a powerful learning tool to self-assess and to get feedback from your peers. It is also a relatively non-threatening way to start speaking and use the language learned in the courses.
“I am loving all of the activities we are doing for each module. I have started using some of these in my own class and my confidence and pronunciation has improved a lot.”
The blended approach used on these courses created a flexible environment to cater for all the learners. Within this environment we were able to interact in different ways and at different times. With modern demands and opportunities we need to utilise what we can to learn. A growing language is a living language.