Sunday, April 23, 2017

Mike Butler: Tribute to language petitioner

When Tauranga woman Robin Bishop heard, about two years ago, that English had no official status, she contacted Tauranga MP Simon Bridges, who confirmed that to be true.

She found that its status is based on the fact that most people customarily speak it. The Maori language was declared official in 1987, and sign language in 2006.

The only official requirement for the use of English is in the Tax Administration Act, which says financial records must be kept in English.

English is not under threat, nor undervalued. Shouldn't we leave well alone? “No,” Robin said. “English should rightfully be given the same status as Maori and sign language.

So, Robin set about collecting signatures. She did not say she was battling cancer.

The last email I received from Robin about the petition was a little under two weeks ago, when she announced that she had collected 6258 signatures, mostly by herself.

Four days ago, I was told Robin had passed away. She had literally died trying to gain official status for the English language in New Zealand.

Robin started her campaign with the signatures of four workmates. Mr Bridges as a political heavyweight agreed to present the petition to Parliament.

In the course of promoting the petition, Robin found that of the 189 languages spoken in New Zealand, English is the biggie, with 3.8-million speakers, according to the 2013 census.

A total 148,000 say they speak Maori, although only 125,352 of those could hold a conversation about everyday things. There is a decline in the numbers speaking Maori, with 4.8 percent fewer Te Reo speakers in 2013 compared with the 2006 census.

More speak Chinese – a combined total of 148,000. There were 86,000 speaking Samoan, 66,000 Hindi, 31,000 Tongan, 29,000 Tagalog (Philippines), 27,000 Spanish, 26,000 Korean, 24,000 Dutch, 20,000 Japanese, 19,000 Punjabi, 10,000 Arabic, 9000 Russian, and 7000 Thai.

New Zealand is not alone in having a somewhat casual regard for the main language.

In the United Kingdom, where English is spoken by 98 percent of its 64.5 million inhabitants, Welsh is the only official language there. Its official status is limited to Wales where 580,000 speak Welsh.

Similarly, English serves as the main language of the United States without being the official language. It is spoken well by all but 57 million of the nation’s 318 million residents. Forty million speak Spanish.

English is an official language of almost 60 sovereign states. It is the most commonly spoken language in Canada, Australia, Ireland, and is widely spoken language in countries in the Caribbean, Africa, and South Asia. It is the third most common native language in the world, after Mandarin and Spanish.

Robin’s petition has been passed to Mr Bridges to present to Parliament.


Unknown said...

One of the loveliest people you would ever find.Robin held the view that we are all New Zealanders regardless of when you got here,what colour of your skin was, what percentage of ones blood was deemed to be more important than other parts of it,and that everyone was equally a New Zealander with no special rights or privileges over anyone else.Robin was appalled that what Governor Hobson had said at the treaty signing "we are now one people" was being construed out of context in order to placate one section of the community over all others.Maorifying places and organisations at the expense of all other cultures with little or no consultation with the rest of the population was something Robin and myself felt was the last straw in obtaining harmonious relations within our country.I will miss Robin terribly but NZ will miss her most.

Unknown said...

Whilst hosting one of my grandchildren, an 8 yr old, from Paraparaumu, this week during the school holidays, I was appalled to find that she could sing the National Anthem in Maori, but did NOT know it in English ! When questioned, she said they were only taught it in Maori, & not English ! I will be following this up this week when school starts, with her school, to make sure a), these statements are correct (or not ), & b), if so why is the English version not a priority on the schools curriculum. If it turns out to be true, then 'Houston we have a problem', in that Te Reo Maori is being substituted invidiously into our kids minds as some priority, no doubt to satisfy some Waitangi Tribunal wish list ! English is the only language that should be taught as a mainstream subject to our children in Public funded schools; maori should be a 2nd tier choice, as an indigenous, native language, with approval by parents. As they do with religious teaching etc.
Maori language may be fading in the natural world order, because it is one of many minor dialects, but to insist that NON-Maori learn it by COMPULSION smacks of hidden agendas.It has no real place in our modern world, & could be called a 'romantic'language, used by those indigenous people of the native tribes only.

Unknown said...

English is the national language because we say so. We do not need governmental approval. Has everyone gone mad in this country? Do what I do and just ignore stupid laws and non laws. If more people had the guts to do that and say to the politically correct, NO, then we would have a much saner society. PC is the slippery slope to totalitarianism, Go along with it at your peril.

Auntie Podes said...

Maori is a very primitive language - virtually pre-historic. Anything technicalhas to use bastardised English words. It has no place in the modern world other than as an antique curiosity. Wasting valuable school time in learning it is ludicrous - especially when the education statistics continue to deteriorate.

Peter said...

Unfortunately I have to agree with Aunti Podes and am happy I don't have children in primary school.
Any other language would be fine and whoever want to learn the Maori language can do that after school or at home IF at all one parent speaks it..
By the way: Simon Bridges is not the cleverest politician anyway and has to be sakes for the mistakes he has made.
Giving coal mining rights in an area (national park) he doesn't even know where it is.
He only knows it is on the Suoth Island.
Regards Peter