Friday, July 5, 2019

Bob Edlin: How Andrew Becroft is nudging the pakeha press to get out and learn te reo

There was a time when your Point of Order editorial team’s vocabularies enabled them to comprehend most of the press statements that came their way.

No longer.

It has become fashionable in government circles to inject te reo into English-language press statements, thereby creating a curious Kiwi argot.  The expectation, presumably, is that recipients are as well versed in te reo as the writers of these statements, or that they will be embarrassed into studying the language rather than confess to not knowing.
At the very least, a recipient who stumbles on an unfamiliar word will try to find out what it means.

Such a statement crossed our desk the other day, headed  The revolution that failed to eventuate.
It came from Children’s Commissioner Andrew Becroft and said:
Almost 30 years ago New Zealand had the opportunity to revolutionise how we whakamana Māori children and young people affected by the Care and Protection and Youth Justice systems. It came with the 1989 Children Young Person’s and their Families Act, legislation that, at least in its approach to indigenous children, could be described as a statutory prescription for revolution.
Further down, Becroft refers to elements within the Act that will be critical to its success in practice.
In keeping with this maturing understanding, the new Act focuses on key principles and concepts reflective of a Te Aō Māori world view. These principles are universalised and made applicable to all children within the Act’s scope. These so-called ‘pou’ or central ridge poles (defined in the Act) are:
*  mana tamaiti
*  whakapapa
*  whānaungatanga
There was some learning to be done, here at Point of Order, if we were to get to grips with Becroft’s message.
Should we turn to the Google language translator?
Nah.  Let’s ask Becroft for an English-language version of the opening sentence, and confess to our bi-cultural shortcomings in not knowing what happens when we whakamana children and young people.
Our email confessed to our stumbling, too, on the reference to the Three Pou, although we had a rough idea of “whakapapa”.
In a one-sentence response from Becroft’s office, we were advised:
Whakamana mead [sic] “to enable, to empower”.
For the rest, we have been left to find out for ourselves what he was saying.
But we are reluctant to turn to the Google translator because of a previous experience.
On that occasion, our curiosity had been aroused by a Porirua City Council press statement which said:
 Porirua’s city centre has a new name – Te Manawa – gifted by Ngāti Toa Rangatira to reflect its transformation.
Te Manawa means a central place where many people gather, and their hearts beat as one, says Mayor Mike Tana.
“The name reflects our vision of a city centre that is the vibrant heart of our community, now and for future generations,” he said.
“The gifting of Te Manawa is also a symbol of the strong, enduring partnership between Ngāti Toa and Porirua City.”
This was astonishing;  Just two te reo words were saying as much as we needed 13 words to say.
So we went to Google and found a translator who said Te Manawa means “heart‘ or “heartbeat”.
Then we asked the mayor’s office which was correct – the Google translation or the mayor’s version of the meaning of Te Manawa.
A mayoral staffer told us yes, Te Manawa literally means “the heart” or “heartbeat“.
However, because the Māori language is often poetic and symbolic, words can carry a more expressive meaning, and this is so with Te Manawa which has a wider subtext when translated. The quote from the Mayor was taken from words we are using to describe Te Manawa in a lyrical not literal sense.
Oh dear.  This suggests we risk getting it wrong, if we are given and use a literal translation instead of a lyrical one.
That’s why we emailed Becroft’s office.
We are disappointed his staffer put us right with just one of several te reo words injected into the recent press statement.
We are also tempted to suggest that Becroft’s statements henceforth be issued in both languages – but we suspect he might be complying with a government edict to honour the Treaty partnership by injecting plenty of te reo into English-language statements, a policy to be gradually pursued until half the words are English and half are te reo.
Bob Edlin is a veteran journalist and editor for the Point of Order blog HERE.


Ray said...

Your last paragraph sums up the whole thing, but just a bit off the mark, particularly
"gradually pursued until half the words are English and half are te reo". The drive to have English replaced by te reo is evident everywhere.

Unknown said...

Thanks for that explanation. I can now see why the Treaty document, as translated to specific legal English, missed so much poetical implied meaning. I guess us English people just can not believe anything said by Maori.

What a great idea, say anything you like and then make up any meaning you care to for your words (agreements), no wonder Maori can not be trusted.

Mike L. said...

The progressive intrusion of Maori language into all aspects of NZ life is obviously a political move, hastened by the Main Stream Media and their desire for virtue-signalling. Learning Te Reo is fine as a hobby, but this constant pushing of an otherwise useless language is pushing us closer to the stone-age existence formerly experienced by a small percentage of our part-Maori citizens. Is that what they and we really want?

Jenny said...

I have been both amused and agitated by RNZ announcers who say:"Call [Kate Jones] a 'ho." That sounds very much like soliciting. Either RNZ isn't paying their women announcers enough or this is private enterprise. Oh, hang on, I've been told this is Maori. Oh.

Coaster said...

Agreed it is a frustrating trend and clearly embraced by all government organisations. If nothing else it adds significantly to the cost of producing directional signage. Personally I don't mind slipping in a Maori word into oral conversation - usually with an explanation to its meaning if my listener looks blank.
It can be very descriptive - for example a farm manager of Maori / Scottish ancestry was explaining to me how the farms owner was reacting to a situation - "he was doing a haka!". We all could understand that Maori word.

The Realist said...

What really upsets me, and my associates, is that slowly but surely the nae of this country is being changed to Aotearoa. Bah!

John Hurley said...

The issue here is how democracy is being usurped through elite institutionalisation?

Robert Arthur said...

We are supposed to be concerned with national productivity. Obtuse and confusing communication counters improvement. The facility of word processors combined with the training from modern university courses seems to encourage verbose writing. Now to further make comprehension difficult there is maori. Council communications are riddled with it. RNZ supports. Successive enthusiasts are heard on air but never any counter argument. The similarity of words and repeat syllables makes remembering difficult; far more so than an alternative European language. Publications require laborious reference to online dictionaries. Reading the simplest document becomes a protracted exercise. With so much effort devoted to translation, the basic message tends to become lost. It is unfortunate politicians do not fully think through the ramifications of laws passed. It is not enough to rely on Select Committees. Government needs a Department of Pessimistic Analysis to consider the eventual extreme of policies adopted.

Dave Witherow said...

Yes, we're going to get lots more of this - until some genuine crisis takes over. But in the meantime doesn't it all come down to the tail wagging the dog? I remember supporting MMP, but now I realise that none of this racist nonsense could have happened under evil old First Past the Post.

anonomus said...

Our country is only approx. 15% Maori population and yet they are allowed to control almost everything that happens by the Govt.or the Judiciary. the sooner one law for all is introduced is instituted the better for all NZrs, The Govt. that has the guts to implement it could have the treasury benches for the next 20/30 yrs. J.K. ,,,,, on it and was shut down so did W.P. when is it going to happen...As what was said at the signing of the treaty,,, We Are One People. It is only hard line Maori that are preventing it... There is NO such thing as a partnership with the Crown. We as NZers. other than Hard line Maori are being held to ransom. Maybe everyone should be on the Maori roll and vote accordingly to our wishes.