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The Maori language is spoken by the indigenous people of New Zealand, the Maori. Almost all Maori speakers are bilingual and understand English just as well. Although it is an official language of New Zealand, not all New Zealanders, and not even all Maori people, can speak in the Maori language.
A number of Maori words have been adopted into New Zealand English, while many place names are Maori words. Being able to correctly pronounce Maori words is a necessary skill when talking with New Zealanders. Incorrectly pronounced Maori sounds like fingernails scratching on a blackboard and will immediately identify you as a visitor to the country. Even a tolerable and halting attempt at the correct pronunciation is better than a poor guess ? your effort to get it right will be appreciated and accepted. (Even New Zealanders have trouble with some Maori place names, so you will blend in with the crowd.)
The New Zealand Maori language (Maori: Te Reo Maori) is relatively simple to pronounce.
Each of the vowels has a long and short form:
In written M?ori, the long vowels are often denoted by macrons (bars over the letters) or whatever similar characters were available to the typesetter. Sometimes the vowel letter is repeated for long vowels.
Macrons are not normally used when a Maori word has been adopted into English and they do not generally appear on direction signs or maps.
Thus Māori, Maaori and Maori all represent the same word, and usage will depend on the style of the writer and whatever conventions were in place when the article was written. The most recent Māori Language articles will use macron over the long vowels. This will probably only happen in English if the writer is, or the article concerns Maori.
There are only 10 consonants in Maori: h, k, m, n, p, r, t, w, ng, wh.
The first eight are pronounced as in English. The last two are different, with 'ng' being pronounced as the ng in 'singer', and 'wh' as wh in 'whale', or as a 'f', depending on the region. This came about because the first dialect to be recorded in written form by European missionaries was the Northland dialect, which has therefore become "standard M?ori" by default.
Maori words are broken into syllables at each vowel or Consonant-Vowel pair.
Maori word root combinations tends to have a major root subject followed by qualifier suffixes. This means a literal translation from Maori to English produces a lot of transposed word combinations.
It is unlikely that an ordinary traveller will need to resort to speaking Maori to make themselves understood. However an understanding of Maori words and their meanings will lead to an appreciation of the culture and enhance the travel experience.
Maori take meetings and greetings seriously. Visitors and honoured guests will often be welcomed in a formal ceremony known as a Powhiri. While such ceremonies generally take place on a Marae, it has become accepted practice that such ceremonies may also take place at conferences, important meetings, and similar ceremonial occasions. On such formal occasions, protocol will normally mean that a representative or adviser who can speak Maori will be assigned to the visitors' party to assist and explain what is happening and may formally speak (Whaikoreroe) to introduce the visitors.
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Glossary of Maori Geographical terms translated into English
Many place names (http://www.tetaurawhiri.govt.nz/english/resources_e/placenames.shtml) have been made tautological by Europeans adding a word which is already contained in the M?ori name, e.g. Mount Maunganui = "Mount big mountain". However, in recent years, there has been a trend for New Zealand English speakers to drop the English geographic qualifier and refer to many geographic features by their M?ori names alone. Thus Mount Ruapehu is often referred to simply as Ruapehu. In many respects this is an English contraction rather than a reversion to M?ori names, as many of the M?ori words are followed by a pluralising s where the omitted English geographic term was plural. So the Rimutakas is used in place of the Rimutaka ranges, while the Waikato will normally refer to the the Waikato river although Waikato (without the) would probably refer to the region, though this may need to be inferred from the context.
Maori is taught in many places around New Zealand, often as a night class. Ask at the local information centre or citizens advice bureau. The Maori Language Commission also has a list of course providers (http://www.tetaurawhiri.govt.nz/english/resources_e/where_to_learn_maori.shtml).