In New Zealand, Te Reo Māori is experiencing a significant revival. Try to learn some Māori phrases while you're in Aotearoa – start with Kia ora! (Hello)

What language is spoken in New Zealand?

New Zealand has three official languages: English, Te Reo Māori, and New Zealand Sign Language.

English is the primary language; however, around 4% (or 140,000) of people speak Te Reo. This makes it the second most commonly spoken language in New Zealand. 

The Māori language(opens in new window) is considered a national taonga (treasure) and is undergoing a significant revival. Initiatives such as Te Wiki o te reo Māori (Māori Language Week), Kura Kaupapa (Māori language schools from pre-school through to high school) and a Māori Television all playing a role in making sure Te Reo Māori remains a living language embraced throughout New Zealand. 

You can help support Te Reo Māori by making an effort to get pronunciation right and using simple words and phrases in everyday conversation. 

Greetings in Te Reo Māori

Learning basic Māori greetings (mihi) is a great place to start. Try using these anywhere you go in New Zealand - quite often, the response will be a wide smile.  

How do you say hello in Māori?

  • Kia ora - Hello
  • Mōrena - Good morning
  • Tēnā koe - Hello to one person
  • Kia ora/Tēna kōrua - Hello to two people
  • Kia ora tātou/kia ora koutou - Hello everyone
  • Tēnā koutou - Greetings to you (said to three or more people)
  • Nau mai, haere mai - Welcome
  • Kei te pēhea koe? - How are you?
    • Kei te pai - Good
    • Tino pai - Really good

How do you say goodbye in Māori?

  • Ka kite anō - See you later
  • Mā te wā - See you next time
  • Haere rā - Goodbye/farewell (said to someone leaving)
  • Hei kona rā - Goodbye (said to someone staying)

How do you say thank you in Māori?

  • As well as being used as a greeting, kia ora is also a general expression of appreciation.
  • Tēnā koe (to one person), tēnā kōrua (to two people), or tēnā koutou (to three or more people) also means thank you in Māori. 

Pronunciation

Learning how to pronounce Māori words correctly is a sign of respect. Don't worry if you get it wrong the first time, the main thing is that you try. This will help you pronounce Māori place names accurately and confidently, as well as the names of people. 

Place names such as Onehunga, Whangamomona and Ngunguru can look like tongue twisters. But once you master Māori pronunciation, all Māori names will roll off your tongue. 

The Māori language consists of five vowel sounds:

  • a (‘a’ as in ‘car’)
  • e (‘e’ as in ‘egg’)
  • i (‘i’ like the ‘ee’ in ‘tee’)
  • o (‘o’ as in ‘four’)
  • u (‘u’ like an ‘o’ in ‘to’)

Vowels can be long or short. A long vowel is signified with a macron above it. For example:

  • a, (short vowel) papa (earth)
  • ā, (long vowel) pāpā (father)

There are eight consonants in Māori, similar to those in English — h, k, m, n, p, r, t, and w.

There are also two different consonants — ‘wh’ and ‘ng’. The ‘wh’ sound similar to the English ‘f’. The ‘ng’ is similar to the ‘ng’ sound in English words like ‘sing’, except that in Māori, words can start with ‘ng’.

Start with Kia ora!

Kia ora can be used to say hello, express gratitude, send love and make a connection.

Kia ora is a warm and welcoming greeting you'll hear throughout New Zealand and comes from the indigenous Māori language.

What does kia ora mean?

In its simplest form, kia ora means hello. However, 'kia ora' is more than just hello because it references life and health.

These two words signify more than just a passing greeting. In its literal sense, 'ora' refers to a state of living, or being alive. By using using 'kia', it changes it from a noun to a verb, so rather than 'alive' it is 'living'. So when you say kia ora to someone, you are wishing the essence of life upon them.

When should you say kia ora?

Kia ora is used as an informal greeting throughout New Zealand. You will hear everyone from the Prime Minister to the local shopkeeper using it in day-to-day conversation.

Use kia ora to wish someone well as a greeting or farewell, to say thank you, to affirm support, or to say a friendly 'cheers'. You can also use kia ora to answer the phone or start an email.

It's really important to acknowledge a person. By using the words 'Kia Ora' we acknowledge not just them, but everything about them including where they come from and who they come from.

Where to hear Te Reo Māori

These experiences offer the chance to hear (and even practice) the Māori language.

#MāoriCulture

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