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The relationships beween te reo Māori ability and use

Tirohia tēnei whārangi i te reo Māori

This chapter looks at the relationship between proficiency in speaking te reo Māori and how often te reo is used at home and in a range of settings outside the home.

Te Kupenga provides new information that links te reo Māori proficiency to its use. The use of any language in a range of settings is important for retaining proficiency in that language.

All the statistics in this report are based on the total population of New Zealanders who identified with Māori ethnicity and are aged 15 years and over. The statistics about the use of te reo Māori in and outside the home include the 213,000 Māori who could only speak a few words or phrases in te reo Māori, who are classified as using no te reo.

Higher speaking ability related to greater use of te reo

Māori who could speak te reo Māori very well, well, or fairly well (106,500 people), were more likely to use the language at home than those who spoke it not very well (151,000 people). Around 85 percent of Māori in each of the three highest proficiency groups spoke at least some te reo Māori at home, compared with 58 percent of those able to speak only basic te reo (those able to speak not very well).

The amount of te reo Māori spoken in the home increases along with proficiency. Those able to speak the language very well use it more. Of those who spoke te reo very well, 45 percent used it equally with another language or more often (equally or more) to someone in their household, including 27 percent who spoke it all or mostly.

Of Māori who spoke te reo Māori well (26,500 people), 35 percent spoke it equally or more, including 8 percent who spoke all or mostly te reo.

Regardless of proficiency however, ‘some’ te reo was the most commonly spoken amount in the home.

Outside the home, Māori able to speak the language very well are also most likely to use te reo Māori more often. The majority (52 percent) of this group had spoken all or mostly te reo Māori in some setting outside the home. This differs from those able to speak well or fairly well, where most had spoken just some te reo Māori.

Māori who were able to speak te reo Māori very well, well, or fairly well all had slightly higher rates of te reo use outside the home than inside it. However, for those who spoke only basic te reo Māori this was reversed – 53 percent used some te reo Māori outside the home and 58 percent did so at home.

Graph, Te reo Māori speaking ability, by participation in cultural activities, June–August 2013.

The amount of te reo Māori spoken at home varies with ability

How much te reo Māori is used at home varies according to proficiency levels and the presence of children. Of all the relationships in the home, Māori, regardless of proficiency, are most likely to speak te reo to their pre-school children.

Amount of te reo Māori spoken at home
By person spoken to and proficiency level
June–August 2013
Proficiency level of  spoken te reo Māori 
Amount of te reo Māori spoken at home 
Person spoken to 
Pre-school child  Primary school child  Secondary school child  Parent  Partner 
Percent 
Very well/well  All / mostly / equally(1)  48.1  40.9  38.2  31.9*  26.5 
Some  45.1  49.2  51.2  45.6  51.5 
None  6.8**  10.0**  22.5*  22.0* 
Fairly well  All /mostly / equally(1)  23.1* 24.2  13.5**  16.1*  15.4* 
Some  68.8  66.9  70.8  57.1  56.9 
None  8.1**  8.9**  15.7**  26.8  27.7 
Not very well  All / mostly / equally(1)  5.6* 4.8* 5.0**  4.6*  2.7* 
Some  67.9  64.7  56.2  32.5  40.3 
None  26.6 30.5  38.8  63.0  57.0 
1. Māori equally with English (or another language).
Symbols:
S suppressed
* sampling error is 30 percent or more but less than 50 percent
** sampling error is 50 percent or more, but less than 100 percent

Please note that on 27 July 2015 we corrected the table above. The proportions for those who speak te reo ‘not very well’ to their pre-school children changed due to an error in the previously published table.

Māori who are able to speak te reo Māori very well or well are more likely to speak the language equally or more to any of the people they live with than those of lower proficiencies.

Māori who are able to speak only basic te reo Māori speak the language equally or more in significant numbers only to their pre-school children, and speak considerably lower amounts to all other members of their household.

Those with higher proficiency speak more te reo Māori outside the home

Greater use of te reo Māori outside the home is associated with Māori cultural settings and proficiency.

There are four main settings outside the home where te reo Māori is most commonly spoken: at club or interest group activities such as kapahaka, helping at school, attending hui, and at religious activities. These settings are more likely to have a cultural focus.

As with use inside the home, the amount of te reo Māori spoken outside increases with proficiency. Those able to speak te reo very well are the most likely to speak the language equally or more, while those who spoke only basic te reo Māori are the least likely.

Amount of te reo Māori spoken outside the home
By context spoken in and proficiency level
June–August 2013 
Proficiency level of spoken te reo Māori  Amount of te reo Māori spoken outside the home  Context outside home
Club or interest group  Helping at school  Hui/meeting  Religious activity  Visit relatives/friends  Work Sport
Percent 
Very well/well  All/mostly  34.9 34.2  27.1  28.5  10.7  18.4  6.00**
Equally(1)  18.4  19.3  25.2  14.9  18.1  12.5  10.8*
Some  30.5  34.3  40.6  37.5  51.3  36.3  34.4 
None  16.3*  12.2*  7.1*  19.0*  19.9  32.8  48.8 
Fairly well  All/mostly  11.5*  9.5*  7.0*  11.2*  1.0**  3.0** 
Equally(1)  21.4*  14.6  15.7  11.9*  12.4  11.8  10.8* 
Some  44.5  51.3  59.7 47.1  57.2  39.4  30.6 
None  22.6  24.6  17.6  29.8  29.5  45.8  57.5 
Not very well All/mostly  3.9**  1.7** 2.7**  5.3**  S S
Equally(1)  6.8*  6.5*  6.2*  6.9**  3.4  2.7*  2.1** 
Some  37.2  41.9  48.6  30.2  34.1  27.0  15.0 
None  52.0  49.9  42.4 57.6  62.3  70.1  82.8 
1. Māori equally with English (or another language). 
S suppressed
* sampling error is 30 percent or more but less than 50 percent
** sampling error is 50 percent or more, but less than 100 percent
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