In New Zealand the Māori language is experiencing a revival. Try to learn some Māori language phrases while you're here – 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 main 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 is considered a national taonga (treasure) and is undergoing a revival. Initiatives such as Māori Language Week, Māori language schools (from pre-school through to high school) and a Māori language television station all playing a role in making sure Te Reo 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. 

Māori greetings

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

Morena - Good morning

Tēnā koe - Hello (more formal than kia ora)

Kia ora 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’s it going?

  • Kei te pai - Good
  • Tino pai - Really good

How do you say goodbye in Māori?

Ka kite anō - See you later

Haere rā - Goodbye

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. 

Māori pronunciation

Learning how to pronounce Māori words correctly is essential. 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’. Many Māori pronounce 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’.

Where to hear it

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

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