New Zealand Labour Party

Māori fun in Nanaia Mahuta’s home.


Waiata and kai are two of the keys to making learning te reo Māori fun in Nanaia Mahuta’s home.

“I have a son aged five and a daughter aged two.  My husband and I made a conscious choice they would go to Kōhanga Reo and Kura Kaupapa Māori and we’ll decide about secondary school later. But I strongly believe that what happens in the home is what makes the biggest difference to learning of language. 

“I grew up in a household and on a marae where Māori was spoken, so I was immersed in it. Our language was not separate from our culture but was an integral part of our lives. My husband was a late learner of Māori so we thought long and hard about the best approach for our children.

“Being involved in your children’s learning of the language is essential. We make sure we know what the girls have learned at Kōhanga Reo and we repeat new sentences and phrases with them.  Music is a big part of that learning. We fill our house with Māori music.

“Most of our books are in English but my youngest daughter is just at that age of enjoying simple picture books and we translate the words and questions into Māori when we read to her.

“Absolutely the biggest aid to speaking Māori in the house is food. Food is very much a connector in all homes so we use that a lot – such as mmm he reka te panana! (Mmm the banana is yummy!) or He inu māu?  (would you like a drink?) .

“I do meet parents who wrestle with whether the (immersion) approach will give their child the best education but growing up bilingual is a tremendous asset - and if a child is happy and strong in their culture with a sense of self I think that’s pretty much all they need.”