There are three official forms of New Zealand language:
* Te Reo Maori, and
* New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) - te reo Turi.
The English language was introduced by our early European settlers, and as the population grew, English became the established language.
But our Maori ancestors, who lived here long before European settlement, had their own dialects, and these are deeply ingrained in our culture and daily life.
Kiwis respect and promote the use of both English and Te Reo Maori.
Informally, Te Reo Maori has been taught in our schools for decades, although it has never been part of the official school curriculum.
New Zealand Sign Language was officially recognised as our third language by an Act of Parliament in 2006, and is the primary language of our hearing impaired community.
If you come to Aotearoa, here are a few of the more widely used Te Reo Maori words, and the English translation:
Aotearoa - New Zealand, our home
Kia ora - Hello (we also use this as a way to say thanks or to show our appreciation)
Tena koe - Hello (but a more formal version)
Kai - Food
Koura - Crayfish
Moana - The Ocean or sea
Awa - The river
Whanau - Family
Taonga - Treasure
Haere ra - Goodbye
Ka kite ano - See you later on
Kei te pai - Good
Pounamu - Our valuable greenstone, also known as jade
Kiwi - our native flightless bird, but also a term for all New Zealanders.
Marae - a building or collection of buildings, regarded as sacred sites, used by Polynesian whanau and people for religious and social gatherings
Tiaki - to care for people and place. You can learn more here.
Some unique kiwi slang - can you decipher this conversation between two New Zealanders:
And of course we also have some very unique words which we use every day to describe various items and situations.
Here's a typical example:
First kiwi: "Hey bro, lets tramp down to the batch at the awa. Some of my whanau will be down there. I'll pack the chilly bin. We'll need to go to the dairy first to get some ice. Don't forget to pack your togs and jandals. Look's like good weather eh?".
Second kiwi: The reply might read something like: "Sweet as bro. I'll bring the scroggin".
First kiwi: Hey mate (friend), lets hike down to the cabin at the river. Some of my family will be down there. I'll pack the esky (small icebox). We'll need to go to the corner store first to get some ice. Don't forget to pack your swimmers and thongs (sandals). Looks like good weather doesn't it?".
Second kiwi: "No problem mate. I'll bring the snack for our walk".
More Information on New Zealand Language
Our National Museum, Te Papa, in Wellington, has some excellent information on our language, particularly Te Reo Maori.
You can go to their site here.
Note: Te Papa translates to "treasure box" in Maori. If you are visiting Wellington, we highly recommend setting aside a day to visit Te Papa.