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High-level te reo Māori results

Tirohia tēnei whārangi i te reo Māori

This chapter summarises the high-level results on te reo Māori from the Te Kupenga 2013 information release published in May 2014 (Statistics NZ, 2014). The release included information about first language, speaking proficiency, and the use of te reo Māori inside and outside the home by age, sex, and region.

Read Te Kupenga 2013 for more details.

Speaking ability

In 2013, an estimated 257,500 (55 percent) Māori adults reported they could speak more than a few words or phrases in te reo Māori. Overall, 50,000 (11 percent) could speak te reo very well or well, 12 percent could speak fairly well, and 32 percent could talk about simple/basic things in te reo. The remaining 45 percent could speak no more than a few words or phrases.

Use inside the home

In 2013, of those able to speak more than a few words or phrases in te reo Māori, 64 percent said they spoke some te reo Māori at home. As in 2001, te reo Māori was often spoken at home to children, particularly pre-school and primary school-aged children. Over 80 percent of Māori adults living with pre-school children spoke some te reo Māori to them, including 18 percent who spoke te reo equally with another language or more often to them.

Use outside the home

Of those able to speak more than a few words or phrases in te reo Māori, 67 percent said they spoke some outside the home. Speaking te reo outside the home was most common when attending a club or interest group, while helping at school, and when attending meetings or hui. However, the proportion of Māori speaking all or mostly te reo decreased across all outside-the-home activities between 2001 and 2013.

Te reo Māori as first language

Te reo Māori was the first language (that is, the language that was first learnt as a child and still understood) for 38,000 or 8 percent of Māori adults.

Other core language skills

Along with speaking ability, Te Kupenga also collected information on listening, reading, and writing in te reo Māori. The pattern of ability across the four skills was relatively consistent.

Listening was the most common of the four skills – 62 percent of Māori adults said they could understand more than a few words or phrases of spoken Māori. As with speaking ability it was the older age group who had higher proficiency levels – 26 percent of those aged 55+ understood spoken Māori well or very well. Across the other age groups this ranged from 12 to 17 percent. Women were also more likely to understand spoken Māori well or very well – 19 percent could do so compared with 13 percent of men.

While writing in te reo was the least reported language skill, the proportion of Māori who said they could write in the language increased between 2001 and 2013. The increase mainly consisted of those who were able to write ‘not very well’. Of Māori who could write te reo well or very well, those aged 55+ were the most likely to do so (17 percent), down from 28 percent in 2001. The ability to write te reo well or very well rose among 25–44-year-olds. The increase was mainly among those aged 25–34, up from 5 percent in 2001 to 11 percent in 2013.

Te reo Māori proficiency
By language skill
2001 and 2013 
Proficiency  Language skill 
Listening  Reading   Writing Listening  Reading  Writing 
2001  2013 
Percent (%) 
Very well  8.9   6.8 6.0  8.1  7.4  5.8 
Well 6.4  5.8  5.0  8.0  7.6  5.9 
Fairly well  18.4  15.9  12.7  17.0  15.9  11.8 
Not very well  25.4   24.5 20.4  29.2  26.8  27.2 
No more than a few words or phrases   40.9 47.0   55.9 37.7  42.3  49.4 
Source: Statistics NZ, Te Kupenga 2013 
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