Call to censure broadcasters who can’t speak Mowdee words proper!

An early AM Maori radio

Newsie.co.nz had an interesting article on Friday.  Apparently there are a bunch of elite Maori academics from the University of Waikato who would like to see our esteemed news readers dragged over the coals if they dare to mispronounce Maori words during the upcoming Maori language week.

You may have noticed the Maori language week before. They seem to come around about every two and a half months or so. We are all encouraged to speak Te reo etc and all the weather persons on the TV are forced to say the Maori place names instead of the actual name of the town that everyone is familiar with.

Fortunately some of the names are easy. For instance, Whakatane in Maori is Whakatane. But if you are a tourist planning a trip to Milford Sound, you might like to know if it will be raining or not. (Spoiler alert: It will be). So calling it Piopiotahi without even having the English version on the screen can cause a few issues.

Now to be fair, I think one of the most proficient at pronouncing Maori place names is Daniel Corbett, the TV One weatherman. He seems to get them bang on most of the time, and I commend him for that because, well you know, he’s actually a Pom and he has an American accent.

So what is it that our esteemed Maori academics are so up in arms about? quote.

Staff at the University of Waikato are calling for broadcasters who don’t pronounce Māori words correctly during Māori language week to be censured.

Members from the Faculty of Māori and Indigenous Studies want the Broadcasting Standards Authority to take a tougher line with journalists and on-air hosts.

They are suggesting any mis-pronunciations next week be treated as a professional foul. end quote.

Cool, I wonder who the Ref will be. And will they just be blowing a whistle and holding up a yellow card? Or maybe a red card for those really persistent offenders.

According to Professor Pou Temara: quote.

Maori tolerate the mispronunciation of their language in broadcasting for 51 weeks of the year! end quote.

How very tolerant. I guess after suffering us dopey English speakers for 51 weeks, your average elitist Maori fulla has a right to be a bit miffed, although he did say it was unlikely formal action would be taken if words were not pronounced properly.

But to be honest, the biggest concern I have with it all is this, which local dialect will be the one deemed to be the correct one?

Most areas in New Zealand have a different vernacular from others. A bit like a person from Essex will pronounce words differently to one from the Home Counties, or a person from Gore will sound completely different to someone from Northland when they advise that they have just bought a purrrple worrk shirrrt. (The Northlander will just have one ‘r’ in each word and will add ‘Bro’ at the end).

Maori have been fighting amongst themselves about this sort of thing for years. We all know about the Wanganui/Whanganui example of course and the good folk of Mangawhai now like to put an ‘f’ sound in there when there was never one back in the day.

And of course, it seems that there is a very nice little earn to be had running courses for those hapless English-speaking broadcasters. All you need to do is tell them they are butchering the Maori language, that you intend to censure them if they don’t up skill, and Voilà, (that’s French by the way), you have a captive audience who will be only too pleased to know that all you have to do to speak Mowdee proper like is to replace the rolling ‘r’ with a ‘d’.

My personal favourite in this regard is the practice of calling Porirua, Podeedua, and let’s not even start on the weird new practice of placing the emphasis on the last syllable such as the Waitama-TAH harbour.

I am sure that these strange new pronunciations of Maori words have only come about recently as a result of the aforementioned broadcasting classes. I certainly have never met an actual Maori person who speaks like that.

But Mr Temara also had some sage advice for people as Māori language week approached. Quote.

Speak the Māori language, and keep this language part of our New Zealand heritage. End quote.

Well, I do personally try to get pronunciation correct, in fact, I used to study it regularly, at about 7.30pm on a Wednesday from memory, from one of the best news readers in the business.


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ExPFC, ex lots of things. Husband to a great woman. Father to great kids. Traveller, teller of tall tales, wannabe capitalist property magnate. I’m a passionate user of fossil fuels, a proud Kiwi, Ford over Holden, Indy over F1, V8’s over everything else.

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