After attending a whānau reunion and learning that no one in his whānau could kōrero Māori, James Tautuku took it upon himself to learn te reo and keep it alive amongst his whānau.
“I figured, why don’t I learn so there’s someone that can kōrero on behalf of my whānau. I hear that it can take 3 or 4 generations of those who learn before there is an actual change. I thought, why not start now, better late then never,” says James.
As part of Mahuru Māori, James challenged himself to speak te reo Māori for at least 2 hours a day and admits that it’s been harder than he thought, but it’s all been worth it.
“I push myself in class so I wanted to push myself outside of class too and jump on that Mahuru Māori waka. Learning te reo has boosted the amount of reo in our home too.”
While on the journey of learning te reo, James has had the support of his wife, who is already a fluent speaker. But with pēpē number four due to arrive in February, James and his wife are on a mission to teach their tamariki more te reo as well.
“My kids ask questions about kupu and are more curious. The motivation with another baby on the way has made us knuckle down and set a bar that we want to reach. We aren’t expecting to all be fluent before February, but we hope to have the basics,” says James.
Growing up as what James describes, a fair-skinned Māori, he struggled with the feeling of whakamā when trying to learn te reo and felt like he was always having to work a little harder to prove himself.
Since starting at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, those feelings have slowly had less of an impact on his learning and his drive to continue on this journey.
“My kaiako, Eliza Bruce, makes learning fun and engaging. It’s a safe space to make mistakes and not feel whakamā. We have a really supportive class that are constantly pushing each other. It’s meant that me and most of the class are motivated to keep going,” says James.
James recognises that there are probably many others out there who feel the same way he once did and are afraid to take the first step in learning te reo, but he hopes his story will encourage them to finally give it a go.
"I’m okay making mistakes now. I still get a bit nervous but it’s not as daunting anymore. I’ve committed to learning and I’m going for it. I follow the kīwaha, tūwhitia te hopo, feel the fear and do it anyway.”