Astley calls out actor who criticised his Te Reo Māori use

Publish Date
Tuesday, 25 June 2019, 4:45PM

Our very own Astley Nathan told the Herald he was disheartened when a prominent Māori actor told him his te reo pronunciation made him "sick" but insists he has no ill feelings towards the man.

"To anybody who cuts someone down or discourages someone for speaking te reo – maybe don't. Because for some people that's really disheartening and it makes you not want to try," Astley explains.

Nathan says he was walking along Auckland's K Rd on Sunday morning when the incident occurred.

"The guy in question pulled me to the side and he pretty much said 'look, I think you should stop speaking Māori on the radio because it makes me sick'."

Nathan said the comment took him by surprise so he didn't immediately react but later posted about the event on Facebook.

"I was in a good mood at the time so I didn't retaliate or say anything," Nathan told the Herald. "I was just like 'oh, okay bro, that's all good; you're entitled to your own opinion and that's fine and that was it … and I woke up the next day and I was kinda like 'man, it sucks!'

"It's pretty sad for someone like me... I might not be perfect at speaking the reo but I definitely try my hardest and I don't think I butcher it that often, so to hear someone who's fluent and knows how to speak knock you down is not very supportive."

More than 300 people have reacted to the Facebook post and 60 people have left comments, many of them supporting Nathan for speaking out.

One person said: "Proud of you uso! Keep doing you and if you’ve got haters, it means you’re doing something right ❤️" while another said: "Some people are so rude! I think it’s awesome that there’s a swell of people learning. Of course sometimes we’ll pronounce things wrong, at least we’re not scared to try! Keep it coming"

Nathan, who grew up in Auckland, says no one in his family spoke te reo but he attended kohanga reo, studied Māori at high school and Māori media at AUT.

He admits learning the language is an ongoing journey for him but he worries others trying to learn could be discouraged by negative comments such as the one he received.

"I'm definitely proud of my culture and I'm proud to be Māori, but I do feel shy when I have to speak Māori or say my pepeha or try and hold a conversation with someone who speaks Māori."

Nathan says he's not interested in naming the man who criticised him but wanted to speak out in support of others who may have had similar experiences.

"I want people who are in a similar boat to me who have had similar experiences with people that feel like they haven't spoken correctly, or have been put down for not speaking Māori correctly, to feel encouraged and feel supported and know there are other people out there that have dealt with that.

"If anything, we as Māori are our own worst critics. Māori are very harsh towards other Māori in terms of the reo, so for me I just wanted to put that out there and hopefully make people feel supported.

"Bottom line: whether you're fluent, whether you're just starting to learn, whether you're half way through your journey – if we want [te reo] to survive and want it to flourish, we all need to support each other."

This article was originally published at nzherald.co.nz and is reproduced here with permission