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Te Reo Māori: The Basics Explained by David Kārena-Holmes



With an upsurge in learning and speaking te reo Māori across the country, there is a real hunger for resources that help learners of the language.


A tutor of Māori grammar at schools and educational institutions since the 1980s, author David Kārena-Holmes helps answer that demand with this newest book.


It is - essentially - a complete rewrite of the now out-of-print Māori Language: Understanding the Grammar, first published by Kārena-Holmes in 1995.


As he explains in his prefaces, the first Commissioner of the Māori Language Tā Tīmoti Kāretu stressed the need for learners to "acquire a sound knowledge of the principles that govern the construction of phrases and sentences" in te reo Māori. Likewise, Scotty Morrison puts it bluntly that understanding the grammar of the language "eventually becomes vital to proficiency".


This book provides exactly that.


With his simple and methodical approach, Kārena-Holmes explains the building blocks of grammar in te reo Māori, showing how to create sentences, paragraphs and phrases.


He provides a simple overview of pronunciation before breaking down the language into bigger chunks. While it might look technical and remind you of high school English -- stative verbs and action verbs, personal pronouns particles and determiners to name but a view of the conventions Kārena-Holmes explores -- he makes it simple and easy to understand.


Each sentence is broken down into a very visual representation, with the designers using bold and italicised text to help. Kārena-Holmes then goes on to explain each part, making it easier for the learner to understand how to substitute and replace each segment to create new sentences.


It is a wonderful resource for those beyond the brand-new beginner stage. For those who are learning single words, pronunciation or numbers, this book may confuse or overwhelm, turning off students from progressing further.


But for those learners that want to begin understanding how to construct sentences it is perfect. It provides some deeper theoretical knowledge that you can apply to daily use. For those of us that were fluent but have 'lost it', this will jog your memory and inspire you to uncover your te reo Māori knowledge again.


A bibliography provides lots of other resources to add to your reading pile, and a handy index provides a quick reference to the main information in the book relating to each, potentially confusing, particle. I can attest to its usefulness; especially around a word like i that can be used at least 14 different ways.


Kārena-Holmes has received some flak in the past for being a Pākehā writing about te reo Māori. However as he writes in the book, 'if te reo Māori is to thrive into the future it must be used in practice continuously". He is absolutely correct. Te Reo Māori: The Basics Explained uses real-life examples to illustrate how grammar works day to day. It is an essential companion for te reo Māori speakers.


Reviewer: Rebekah Lyell

Oratia, RRP $34.99

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