As part of the experience of being in New Zealand I thought it would be a great idea to learn a bit more about the country’s native people, the Maori.

And what better way is there to learn something about different people than learning a new language? So I enrolled for the class Te Reo Maori – Maori for Beginners – at the Community Education Whangarei (CEW).

It’s kind of like the Volkshochschule in Germany. For the next couple of weeks, Jason will teach me and the ten other “students” the basics of Maori language. This includes how words are pronounced, how sentences are structured, some basic vocabulary and added learning about the Maori culture and their beliefs.

The class started last Monday, but I was so sick that I only made it halfway through before having to head back home with a terribly upset stomach. This week was a lot better so I could actually concentrate and take it all in.

The Maori language is not comparable to any language I’ve ever heard or spoken before. The alphabet is quite similar to ours with a few exceptions. “wh” is pronounced like “f” – but the “f” doesnt’t exist. If you put a line above any vowel it means you have to stretch that vowel while speaking. Then you have some letters that are simply swallowed when saying a word.

I think three of us tried to ask Jason today whether by looking at a word you instantly know how to pronounce it – like in Spanish for instance. He said you probably could, but it takes a long time, until you understand the structure of the language and get some practice.

One of the most important things we learnt today is to ask someone how they feel.

E pēhea ana koe? would be the question for that – but only if you just ask one person. If you want to ask a couple (or two people in general) you’d have to say E pēhea ana kōrua? and if it’s three or more people you’re adressing you ask E pēhea ana koutou?. Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

Maoris in New Zealand
Maoris in New Zealand

Here are a few possible answers to that question:

E pai ana ahau – I feel good
E ngenge ana ahau – I feel tired
E mauiui ana ahau – I feel sick

Also very important:

E hiawai ana ahau – I am thirsty (“hia” meaning “I want” and “wai” being “water)

E hiakai ana ahau – I am hungry (“hia” meaning “I want” and “kai” being “food”)

And my favorite Maori word of today’s lesson:

katakata – laugh

Oh, and I almost forgot this one – for all the German people reading this:

oma is also a Maori word and means “to run”! Your grandmother would probably like this!

You should definitely take up a ‘Maori for beginners’ course if you have the time!


  • Travel Dudes

    I'm sure you've had similar experiences I had whilst traveling. You're in a certain place and a fellow traveler, or a local, tip you off on a little-known beach, bar or accommodation. Great travel tips from other travelers or locals always add something special to our travels. That was the inspiration for Travel Dudes.