New Zealand’s official languages
are English and Maori. Most people of New Zealand
talk in English with an accent that closely
resembles an Australian accent but not quite. It is
uniquely a New Zealand accent.
Although English and Maori are the recognized
languages of New Zealand, Maori did not become an
official language of the country until 1987.
The Maori language falls under to the language
family called Austronesian which is the family of
languages used in Australia, Formosa, Polynesia, and
New Zealand became the very first country in 2006 of
April to pronounce sign language as an official
language, together with English and Maori. NZSL or
New Zealand Sign Language is the prime language of
the hearing impaired residents in New Zealand.
It is only in New Zealand that the Maori language is used
and is found nowhere else on the globe. In spite its status
as an official language, the Maori language remains to
struggle against becoming obsolete.
Queen Victoria promised in the Treaty of Waitangi of 1840
that the Maori language would be preserved. It was only
lately that the language of the Maori has garnered popular
support. Today, the Maori language is usually used in
schools and in the media.
In the 1940s when Maori people relocated to the
cities, they felt forced to speak in English and the
youth were brought up without their native language.
The Maori language was near to being completely lost
by the 1970s.
A recent study by the government of New Zealand
shows that approximately one hundred thirty thousand
people know some Maori.
A small part of the total population of the Maori is
believed to be proficient in Maori, but the language
is currently being given new life in programs for
early-childhood known as language nests or kohanga
Other European and Polynesian languages are used by a small
part of the population.
Approximately 13 percent of New Zealand’s population today
are Maori. For more than a hundred year, the Maori language
in the country has been a minor language. Before World War
II, the first language of the Maori people who lived mostly
in the countryside was the Maori language. After World War
II in 1945, large scale migration to urban areas happened
that resulted in a breakdown in the passing on of Maori from
one generation to the next.
The children of the Maori started to be brought up
as knowing only English. This is very important
because during this period approximately 60 percent
of the population of the Maori was below the 20
years of age. In a survey on linguistics finished in
the 1970s, it was obvious that less than 20 percent
of Maori were fluent in the Maori language.
Despite intensive efforts to revitalize the Maori
language in the 1970s to the 1980s, including the
preschool language nests or kohanga reo and language
radio stations, the most recent survey of the Maori
Commission done in 1995 indicates that the population of
adult Maori who spoke the language fluently seems to have
reduced substantially to approximately ten thousand.