Māori phrasebook

Sourced from Wikivoyage. Text is available under the CC-by-SA 3.0 license.
The Māori language (te reo Māori) is cherished by the indigenous Māori people of New Zealand as a treasure (taonga) and many Pākehā (New Zealanders of "European" descent) are now learning it. Although it is an official language of New Zealand, along with English and New Zealand Sign Language, only 3.5 percent of New Zealanders (and only 21 percent of ethnic Māori) can conduct a conversation in Māori. Virtually all indigenous Māori speakers are bilingual and converse in English at least equally competently.
Māori is a Polynesian language, and has many cognates with other Polynesian languages such as Hawaiian and Samoan. A number of Māori words have been adopted into everyday New Zealand conversation, even while speaking English, and many place names are of Māori origin. Being able to correctly pronounce Māori words is a valued skill since incorrectly pronounced Māori sounds like fingernails scratching on a blackboard and will immediately identify you as a visitor to the country (or a culturally ignorant local). 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.
As you might expect, one hundred fifty years ago, accents, vocabularies and word constructions were as variegated as the differences between Glaswegian and Cockney Englishes are today. With many people now having lost their localisations as well as their fluency, new learners are learning less localised and more homogeneous versions.
Māori has a close relationship with the New Zealand variant of English, with many consonants and vowels sharing the same pronunciation. Many English loanwords are also present in Māori for post-European settlement concepts, such as pirihimana (police), tāra (dollar), and Ahitereiria (Australia).
An exception to this process is the native language of the Cook Islands, a completely self governing, tropical outlier of the Realm of New Zealand. Here the language is almost as different from the registers spoken in the North and South islands of New Zealand as Chaucerian English is from Californian. That said, Cook Islanders seem to find it easier to understand "mainland" Māori than the other way around.

Pronunciation guide


Phrase list

Learning more