Maori Pronunciation

Written by P Ryan

As told by Kylie Ruwhiu

Kete examples

The main challenge for anyone learning Māori, but has not grownup hearing Māori spoken, is the pronunciation of the vowel sounds.  Correct vowel sounds are absolutely essential and will only come easily after much practice, and listening to Māori speakers.

Once the correct pronunciation is achieved, it’s easy to tackle new words with confidence because the pronunciation of each vowel is absolutely constant, apart from the length.  In this module a lengthened vowel is indicated by a macron or a line over the vowel and it is important to recognise this.

The vowel a is pronounced as in the English star - avoid all trace of the flat a such as in hat.
The vowel e is pronounced as in the English egg
The vowel i is pronounced as in the English key
The vowel o is pronounced as in the English four
The vowel u is pronounced as in the English shoe

When 2 vowels occur together, begin by practising each separately until you can speed up without spoiling the clarity of the vowels when they run together.  For example, koe should be practised as ‘ko – e’ until the vowels can follow each other smoothly.

The only consonants to look for are the following:

must not be rolled.  It is pronounced quite close to the sound of l in English.  For example Māori.

p is generally softer in English, not an explosive sound at all.  In Māori it would be Pounamu

wh is usually pronounced f.  In some districts, like Hokianga, it is spoken like an h and in others for example in Taranaki, like a w.  Where you would say whanau, in Taranaki you would say whanau

ng is a softer sound than in English, especially with regard to the g.  The sound is similar to middle ng in singing.  For example, Ngati Porou.