The second best book of 2018: Māori Made Easy 2 by Scotty Morrison

All week this week we count down the five best books of 2018. Number two: Leonie Hayden reviews the text book Māori Made Easy 2 by Scotty Morrison.

This is about Scotty Morrison’s Māori Made Easy 2. This is not about Scotty Morrison’s Māori Made Easy 2.

It’s about te reo Māori, and the hole carved into me by the lack of it. It’s about those of us without it, the loose threads waiting to be woven back into the fabric of our culture.

Week 31: how to use ‘wareware’
E kore rātou e warewaretia. They will never be forgotten.

I have a small kete of language, but I don’t have enough; I want more; I want to cram it into myself like an overstuffed clothes hamper; to hoard it like gold.

When you’re a student of te reo Māori, there’s never enough. There is so much to fit in, it falls out again. Through kōhanga reo, high school and more recently two years’ study at AUT, I have struggled to push new verbs through the wet cement of my brain. Stative verbs, passive verbs. A new way of hearing and framing. Every new understanding is overshadowed by the dark grey fog on the horizon just ahead – beyond it I can’t see a thing. If only I knew how to read the wind and the waves, navigate by the stars!

Sometimes it feels less like something I never learned, and more like something I forgot. I can see outlines through the fog. I often get headaches.

Māori Made Easy. Its cheery name belies the universe of pain and hope this small blue book holds within it. There is no such thing as easy when you have been robbed of a birthright, had it plucked out of your family tree like a ripe karaka berry, and then had someone salt the ground it grew in.

Week 37: answering why? questions
He aha koe i haere ai? Why did you go?

Nothing can make learning te reo Māori easy, except growing up in a home where it is spoken from birth. Once that possibility is gone, it’s only Māori Made Fucking Hard. In what other situation do you have to unlearn to learn? I’ve watched classmates nearly in tears because the pronunciation of the word ‘ko’ keeps coming out as ‘co’, as in co-signing a Treaty, cooperation in growing a country. It’s ‘core’ the teacher says gently, as in apple. ‘Co’ wai koe? Who are you? It’s ‘core’ the teacher says gently, again, as in apple. Why is it still coming out as ‘co’ (incoherent, co-dependent)? When did the neurological pathways calcify to the point that we can’t repeat a sound we’ve just heard?

Because it’s a not a sound, it’s the total belief that how we’ve been saying Rotorua, Tauranga, Mangawhai, Rangitoto all this time was right. The monoculture is king here in your synapses; colonisation gave it authority a long time ago. The cement in our brains is a statue to Captain Cook and blunt English vowels.

Week 46: when to use ‘hei’
Hei aha to māripi? What is the knife for?
Hei tapahi. To cut.

My grandparents were beaten for speaking te reo, and I have taken that patu and beat myself over and over again, for the shame of my inadequacy. What a legacy! What a gift for colonisation – hand them the switch and they’ll beat their own backs!

The Māori word for shame ‘whakamā’ also means ‘to whiten’. Every learner of te reo Māori I know toils under its weight, but it’s especially heavy for Māori. I am Māori, but am I Māori enough?

Week 49: how to use ‘taihoa’
Taihoa koe e kōrero. Don’t you speak yet.

When I speak my language, it is a crude drawing compared to the intricate whakairo of a native speaker. It is inadequate and often leaves me dumb and mute. But there is pride, te kakano, a seedling, in repeating the names of my maunga, awa, hapū, iwi. I felt myself flush from head to toe when I understood a joke made at a hui recently. Hot and numb with pride, I laughed far too long. But so quickly it was replaced by incomprehension and I was mute again.

In the meantime, I’ll sing. I’ve been gifted so many songs, and they come out whole. Stories and sentences are mine when I sing. When I sing I forget I can’t speak.

Week 58: asking for and giving directions
Me haere ki hea? Where shall I go?

Google ‘te reo Māori journey’ and you’ll find stories of Māori and non-Māori on a hīkoi together, all over the country – Guyon Espiner, Jenny-May Clarkson, Jennifer Ward-Lealand. What better analogy? Inch by inch towards a promised land, the grey fog rolling further back with every step.

Scotty Morrison did not have te reo from birth – he learned at teacher’s training college, and learned and learned and learned. And although I am not 19 years old with my life ahead of me, it’s something I hold fast to (Week 58: He ua ki te pō, he paewai ki te ao. Rain at night, eels in the day). I see now why he has told us it can be made easy – journeys are made with single steps. Page by page, half an hour a day, five days a week. All of a sudden, you’re further up the road.

This time next year I will be preparing to drop out of the work force to study te reo Māori full time for a year. That is the goal I have set for 2020, barring any immovable objects that stand in my way. It will feel strange and uncomfortable. But that feeling has accompanied every good thing I’ve done; it is how I know I’m doing something that will make me grow. I will have this small blue book beside me, and the small green one that came before it. Tools for a thing not easy, but right. I will study their pages and speak in broken te reo Māori to my classmates and we will feel shy and inadequate together. And slowly we will rip up the cement and plant something in the soil underneath.

Previously:

The fifth best book of 2018: My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh

Join us and get a free copy
of the Spinoff’s first book!
Find Out More

The fourth best book of 2018: Simple by Yotam Ottolenghi

The third best book of 2018: Calypso by David Sedaris


Māori Made Easy 2: For everyday learners by Scotty Morrison (Penguin, $38) is available at Unity Books.


The Spinoff Review of Books is proudly brought to you by Unity Books.

Related:


The Spinoff is made possible by the generous support of the following organisations.
Please help us by supporting them.