Kia Ora!

In my post The Most Basic of Basics I briefly talked about using kia ora to say hello to someone.

However, kia ora is a very useful word, beyond saying hello. It kind of also functions as a general word for politeness and acknowledgement.

You may find that these uses fill a gap that you weren’t sure how to express in te reo Māori, as these types of colloquial uses aren’t usually covered in textbooks or classes.

Hello – to start with, we can frame hello as part of the acknowledgement theme as saying kia ora to someone as a greeting is in effect an acknowledgement.

Thank you/thanks – you can say kia ora to thank someone and to acknowledge their action. For example, if someone hands you something, or does something for you. Similarly, if someone has just given an answer or volunteered in class, it might be acknowledged with kia ora.

Good work/I respect or admire that – if someone has done something worthy, you can say kia ora to acknowledge that. For example, someone says they’ve started studying, or they’re volunteering at a charity, or done something you think is impressive or cool, you can interject with kia ora in a tone of admiration.

Good point/I agree – similar to the above, but in this case used when you are listening to someone speaking or actually giving a speech and feel they made a good point, or you support or agree with what they are saying.

Bye/see ya – if someone is leaving and you have to throw out a quick good-bye-nice-to-see-you-I’m-not-ignoring-you, you can use kia ora. You can also just use kia ora as a general good-bye.

Thanks for reading and see you later – Kia ora!

 

Word Wednesday – hinga vs. taka

Today we are talking about these two different words, hinga and taka which can both be used to mean “to fall” (although they each have a variety of other meanings, too). It is important to understand the difference between the meaningd in order to use them correctly, but luckily, it’s not a complicted distinction.

In the simplest form:

  • hinga – fall over/topple
  • taka – drop/fall off/fall down

So hinga can only be used to mean when things fall over, i.e. like when something goes from upright to horizontal. For example, a tree which falls over, or a person who trips.

Whereas taka is when something drops or falls down, or falls off something. For example, a cup falls off a table, or a stone falls down a well, or you simply drop something out of your hand.

If you have trouble remember which is which, try thinking of hinga as “topple”, but taka as “drop” and see if that helps, rather than remembering them both as “fall” and getting confused between the two.

takakapa

Image: Kua taka te kapa –  The penny has dropped (this is a phrase taken from the English to mean the same thing, but the grammar is correct for a literally falling penny too)

 

hingajenga

Image: Kua hinga te jenga – The jenga has toppled/fallen over (remember that the jenga tower has to actually be falling over like in the picture, not simply dropping the pieces)

 

 

 

Useful Word Wednesday – Pukumahi

Today’s useful word is pukumahi, which means busy.

pukumahi – busy

Ok, so that’s kind of useful to know. Now you can say, “I’ve had a busy week” – right?

Ah, no, there’s the trick. You can’t use pukumahi to say you’ve had a busy week, or a busy day, you can only say that you’ve been busy this week. In other words, pukumahi can only apply to a person – you’re saying that the person is busy. This is a bit more obvious when you look at some of the other meanings for pukumahi – industrious, hard-working, diligent. You can’t say that your week was hard-working! So, perhaps our useful word should be remembered as follows:

pukumahi – industrious, hard-working

So, for example, a conversation could go like this:

  • Kei te pēhea koe? – How are you?
  • E pukumahi ana au! – I am/have been busy!

So, if you want to say you’ve been busy lately, which is something we in our society often want to say, then you can use pukumahi and people will know what you mean.

For myself though, I actually don’t like to use it because it seems like a bit of a brag to say that I’ve been so hardworking! (Plus that’s usually not even true…) Below are some examples from two of the online Māori dictionaries using pukumahi to describe another person as hard-working.

From Māori Dictionary online:

  • He tino pukumahi hoki ō mātau mātua. –  And our parents were really hard-working.
  • He wahine pukumahi a Te Paea… – Te Paea was a hard-working woman…

From Ngata Dictionary online:

  • He tauira pukumahi a ia. – She is a hard-working student.
  • He tangata pukumahi taku matua. – My father was an industrious man.

I think the word pukumahi also provides an interesting opportunity to reflect on what we mean when we use the word “busy” – sometimes we make ourselves busy regardless of the amount of work present, sometimes we take pride in being busy, other times we really mean that we were over-whelmed, some times “chaotic” is a nice word to describe our week.

If anyone knows the “correct” way to say you’ve had a busy week in Māori, please leave a comment! I normally make up a sentence about there having been a lot of work, but I don’t know what the natural, idiomatic Māori might be.

Transcription – Helps with the Little Words

So on Monday this week we had our first class for the year, for our course Te Aupikitanga. As is usual for these kinds of things, we all had to go round and introduce ourselves. And I noticed an interesting thing, which is that some people were missing out particles, the little grammar words like i, and ki. 

Now, the interesting thing is not so much that they were doing this – speaking on the spot in a second langauge can definitely make you miss out a few, if not many, words – but rather that I noticed it, and I think this might be due to the practice I was getting with my transcription work.

What often happens, when I’m listening to te reo Māori can be shown in this English example:

  • I (am) go(ing) (to) the shop (to) buy some chip(s)

So what I frequently hear is just the key words like “I go the shop buy some chip” and I don’t register all the grammatical points in brackets. (As you can see, in a relatively uncomplicated example, you can still get plenty of information to understand the sentence.) What happened on Monday is that I was listening and thinking, why do they keep missing out words?! Which is great – because previously I would never have known they were missing out words because I usually didn’t fully register all the words anyway!

I think that by working on transcription, where I had to write down every single word and couldn’t get away with just “I go the shop buy some chip”, where I kept rewinding to check if that was i or ki, has helped train my brain to pay attention to and listen to those “little words” (at least a bit – we still have some way to go yet).

So, I think that if you notice that in your own listening you are missing certain things, try to really focus on practising hearing those things. I think that actually writing it down is better than thinking “oh, I’ll just listen harder” because there’s not much motivation there for your brain to do the work (brains are naturally lazy, this is an actual science fact). If you write it down, it knows it actually has to make an effort and can’t fake it. For this kind of exercise, you don’t need to be able to check if you’re correct – and you don’t even need to understand what’s being said! – because you are only focusing on training your brain to hear and pay attention.

Let me know if you have had any similar experiences (in any language)!

A Theory – ko-rua, ko-toru?

So, as no doubt every learner of Māori has noticed, there’s the curious correspondance between kōrua – meaning you (2 people) – and rua – meaning two. Is this a coincidence or is it actually part of the meaning of the word? ahuamohio commented that they have a theory that the tou in koutou is actually toruthree – which has been shortened over time. In which case the idea I have come up with for koe is that it the e is the same e that you use in phrases like e hoa or e te rangatira.

So, perhaps, back in the distant past, the 3 words/phrases for “you” were:

  • ko-e
  • ko-rua
  • ko-toru

Ko would not be used quite like this now-a-days, but since it is a particle used to indicate that you are talking about something specifically, it does kind of fit.

Does anyone know of any other etymological theories for these words?

What You Hear vs What’s Really There

I am doing some transcribing work at the moment, transcribing some recordings in te reo Māori. I really wonder how much what I’m writing matches what’s really there… Some of it is fine – there are various types of phrases which are definitely what I think they are. They’re familiar enough, despite my relatively limited experience, to be easily, sub-consciously recognised by my brain for what they are – not necessarily the meaning, but the combination of sounds. There’s probably another type of stuff that my brain doesn’t know but that it is interpreting correctly by directly identifying the sounds that make up the words. And then there’s the last type.

This is best illustrated by when I was transcribing a song. I wrote down what I thought I heard, and then I tried looking it up to see if I could find the words. I found a different version of the song – fairly different in details of sentence construction, but all the major words and names were there. So I read that and listened to the song again and although some of it was fine, woah, some of it was SO different. But once I knew what the words were supposed to be, that’s what it sounded like, and it was so obvious. Even though 10 seconds before it had sounded radically different – suddenly I could correctly delineate the words, identify the previously unintelligible sounds and distinguish between similar consonants.

This to me makes two important points. One is that it is very important to be exposed to a lot of different speech – real people, recordings, TV, etc – when learning in order to load your brain up with those first type of sentences that it can easily recognise as set word combinations and phrases. Just having heard various words before, and particularly hearing them in context with other words (for example hearing “ka (verb)”, a correct verbal construction), enables you to process them when you hear them again.

Secondly, I think it would be really beneficial to practice listening to things a few times, then reading a transcript, and then listening again, in order to help develop your ear, and to train your brain by providing it with feedback (as opposed to never getting feedback, a more common occurrence). This kind of material is very difficult to find however. In Te Whanake, if you get hold of the teacher’s manuals, then you can get a few transcripts for some of the listening exercises, but that’s about it. On many language learning websites they recommend getting a book both as an audio book and text, and finding movies with captions or transcripts (which are supposedly easily available as they have to be produced by law in various countries), but I haven’t been able to find either in te reo Māori – let me know in the comments if you know of any!

Koe, Kōrua, Koutou

So, last week I mentioned how you could say hello to people using tēnā koe/kōrua/koutou, which are all different words for “you” when speaking to different numbers of people.

So here’s a couple of little mnemonic things to help you remember – not the words themselves – but just to remember kind of which words refer to which number of people.

If we write the words out like this:

  1. Koe
  2. Kōrua
  3. Koutou

Then you can see that the words get longer the more people they refer to! So, just like in the numbering of the list, koe refers to 1 person, kōrua to 2 people and koutou to 3 or more, and the words themselves get longer as they refer to more people.

They also all have one more vowel than the word before – so koe has 2 vowels, kōrua has 3 vowels, and koutou has 4. Of course, all the words begin with “k” as well, so that’s one less thing to remember because that is consistent.

For some people this will just be really confusing, and they will be able to remember the words quite easily just as they are, but personally I find it easier to remember a rule like this than to memorise the spelling (initially of course – later I know the word well enough to know it automatically). A lot of people don’t notice these rules and connections, so I just want to point them out in case they turn out to be useful to someone.

Note: these mnemonics only work with this method of spelling/writing Māori words! If you use the double-vowel method rather than macrons, they will be written koe, koorua, koutou and they no longer create the useful pattern!