Fish, chips and language tips

A Christchurch restaurant is pairing free Māori language lessons with a classic Kiwi meal.

It doesn't get any more Kiwi than a plate of fish and chips, unless of course, you're throwing in a side of Māori language lessons.

Popular Christchurch seafood restaurant Fush has introduced free te reo Māori classes on Monday nights and the first event attracted over 600 people.

“We expected probably a dozen or so people to turn up, but when we put it online the feedback and demand for the lessons was overwhelming,” says co-owner Anton Matthews.

The team at Fush had to find a bigger venue, so they booked out a local auditorium and couldn’t believe the turnout.

“We had our first lesson and we were just so stoked, people are coming back for more which is just so awesome.”

Fush is a whānau (family) owned business that opened in 2016 with the goal to sell the perfect fish and chips. Manaakitanga (the way in which you show hospitality towards your guests) is important to Anton and the team so everyone is welcomed like one of the family. The restaurant features a menu in both English and te reo Māori and table talkers with basic Māori words to encourage diners to speak Māori to each other while they wait for food.

Te reo Māori in New Zealand is experiencing a renaissance with free classes across the country becoming popular with young and old people looking to reconnect with their culture or learn more about the indigenous Māori culture. 

Ngahiwi Apanui the Chief Executive of Te Taura Whiri i te reo Māori (Māori Language Commission) says children are again using their language at home, in places where a 1970s study had shown effectively no intergenerational transmission of te reo Māori was occurring.

“It’s like seeing green shoots appear in a burnt-off landscape. Māori language is alive and is bursting through into new domains.” said Ngahiwi.

Te reo Māori is even making waves on the global stage. In 2017 the Disney film Moana was translated into te reo Māori with the help of Taika Waititi’s Matewa Trust. Renowned film director James Cameron has said te reo has influenced the Na’vi language in Avatar and is a homage to New Zealand, where the sequels are currently being shot.

Each year in September New Zealand celebrates the Māori language with Te Wiki o te reo Māori (Māori Language Week) where everyone is encouraged to give the language a go and incorporate it into their everyday lives.

It’s not just New Zealanders who can benefit from this resurgence says Tuehu Harris of the Māori Language Commission, te reo Māori has a lot to contribute in developing the visitor experience in New Zealand through deeper storytelling, using and explaining the meaning our places, our peoples and our landscape.

“These stories are often associated with proverbs, traditional literature and song to provide a wonderful source for tourists to appreciate what they see around them and what was here before.”

Ngahiwi lauds the efforts of Māori communities for the revitalisation and believes there is strong public support for doing more in schools and the public domain.

“Māori language is for us all. As more people pass on, learn and use te reo Māori in more areas of life, more initiatives for revitalisation will appear. Our green shoots will become a forest”.

Useful Māori words and phrases

  • Kia ora – Informal greeting meaning hello and good health
  • Ka kite anō – See you again
  • Kei te pēhea koe?  – How are you?
  • Kei te pai! – I am good!
  • Ko wai tō ingoa? – What is your name?
  • Ko …. ahau– My name is ….
  • Kai – Food
  • Taonga – Treasure
  • Maunga – Mountain
  • Awa – River
  • Moana – Ocean
  • Iwi - Tribe
  • Tangata whenua  - People of the land
  • Aotearoa – New Zealand, meaning land of the long white cloud
  • Aroha – Love