Like any marathon, learning and using the reo as an everyday part of your life isn't an easy task. It will take work and for a while it might feel like you aren't getting anywhere either. But with persistence and perseverance, if you keep up the effort it will eventually get easier and you will start to hear the differences around the home.
Try some of the following to get you started.
Build your vocab up
Set yourself a limit of 10 new words a week, make sure if they are items or activities that you are going to use or for things around the home. Take the time to label these items as it will make it much easier to remind yourself of the words if they are right in front of you every time you need to use them. Make sure everyone in the family is introduced to the words and knows that you are only going to use the Māori word for that item or activity from now on.
A phrase a day - keeps the reo doctor away
For those of you who are really motivated. At the start of the week find seven new phrases that you think you are likely to use during the week. From 'Oh Buggar!' to 'Would you like a drink?' Start with one phrase, which you commit to using on that day, and add on the others as the week progresses.
The phrases don't need to be hard, they might even be variations of the one's you already have i.e. 'would you like some bread?' or 'would you like one of these?'
By focusing initially on times when the whole family gets together to start using te reo Māori ensures that everyone is aware of what is happening and has the opportunity to participate. Meal times make fantastic choices. Start by trying to incorporate more reo into that one area. You can begin by identifying things that you need Māori words for. If you are focusing on dinnertime this might be for things like salt, pepper, plate, food etc.
Then try working out the sorts of things that you say at the dinner table. Start off with the simple stuff first like some basic phrases i.e. "pass me the butter, give her the plate, Mum this is a delicious meal."
Gradually you can build up how many new words and phrases you use in this activity. When the family has reached the point where they are feeling confident speaking Māori in this area start adding on other activities around the home, which are Māori speaking activities.
[link leads to He Arataki Family language plan]
Choose a Pirihimana
When changing the language of your home it is usually very hard to keep everyone motivated and on track. Let the kids take turns at being the Pirihimana or Reo Policeman for the day. The job of the pirihimana is to remind everyone to Kōrero Māori and also to keep everyone on track with a system of fines for people who don't speak Māori after being reminded. Fines can range from dishes, to raking the yards, to taking the dog for a walk, to putting the rubbish out etc. Put a list up on the fridge to keep track of everyone's fines.
Make it into a game
Sometimes your effort in terms of growing and using the reo can slacken off. A great way to keep this energy up is to make it into a game.
For whole families - where everyone becomes a Pirihimana
- Every time you hear another family member speaking English you are allowed to fine that person
- Whoever has the least number of fines (1 fine = 1 point) at the end of the week gets a reward of some kind. It might be choosing Friday night's takeaways option or their choice of movie for Saturday night
- A chart is kept of the winners each week and the person who wins the most weeks over one year is given a special big prize for that effort
- A great way to motivate everyone is to get the final prize sorted so that everyone knows what it is as an extra incentive to keep trying
- Get a list together of 10 new words or phrases or whakataukī or a mixture of all. Make sure everyone has their own copy of the list
- Each list runs for seven days
- You get two days to learn the list
- On day three any person with the list is allowed to challenge any other at any time
- The person who is being challenged at that moment has to provide the equivalent for that word in the other language
- If the answer is wrong, the challenger scores one point
- If the answer is right, the challenger scores no points and then has to answer a question from the list. If they get this wrong the other person scores two points
- First to 20 gets a reward, a back massage, a foot rub, taken out to dinner
Recognise and reward effort
A little praise goes a long way. Be sure to recognise the effort that other members are putting in to their language and reward it. It can make the difference between an enthusiastic family and a family who are only going at it half heartedly. Praise for development regardless of how small will be great for your child and their confidence with the language.
Make time to talk
One of the biggest areas that your can affect change in to increase positive attitudes and behaviours to language learning and use is by simply making the time to talk with your child, and encouraging them to talk back. Do this when there are no other distractions around like TV. If children aren't responsive to questions or offer little conversation get them to tell you about something that interests them. Engage with them at this level and ask questions about what you hear, to encourage further discussion and use of language.
Take an interest.
The most important thing about raising bilingual children is that their experience of language is positive, stimulating and enjoyable. It is crucial that a child's attitude to and motivation for expanding their language is fostered continuously. To do this they need to be able to explore the language in fun and positive ways, your role then is to find or create these stimulating experiences and get access to them.
As Colin Baker so aptly puts:
"The role of a language gardener is to provide stimulating soil - a variety of pleasurable environments for language growth."