How do you pronounce ‘māmā’?

So I was walking along listening to a Māori recording today, and I realised I was pronouncing a word incorrectly.

As an aside, I think one of the benefits of listening to recordings while walking is that you don’t have any pressures on you like you do in a conversation or when studying, so you can just chill and mull over the words. If you don’t understand it all properly this might be even better as you are really focussing on the words you do understand.

Anyway, one of the kuia used the word māmā (easy) at the end of a sentence, so it stood out very clearly, and I suddenly realised that I had been saying it wrong! And I think many of my fellow second language learners will find the same thing.

If you look at the word māmā, you will see it has two macrons, one over each ‘a’. But if you say māmā to yourself, what do you say? If you are like me, you actually say māma – what I do, and what I have heard meany others do, is pronounce the first ā long, and then make the second ‘a’ sound very short. We’ve made up an entirely new word that doesn’t exist. Basically, this is English-style pronunciation!

I think there is a general reluctance amongst NZ English speakers to pronounce two long vowels in a row, because we don’t do it when speaking English so it sounds and feels weird to us. So this week my challenge to you is to keep an eye out for those pairs of long vowels and check if you are pronouncing them both long and both the same length.

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