New Zealand–Language

(the guy at 1:05 is awesome)

New Zealand has two main languages you may expect–English, the colonial language, and Maori, the local Polynesian language–and one you probably wouldn’t; in 2006 New Zealand became the first country in the world to make a sign language one of its official languages. New Zealand Sign Language is now officially legal for use in the court system and to gain access to government services.

When Europeans first made contact with islanders on Aeotearoa most of them spoke Maori. In the Treaty of Waitangi (1840), England promised protection of the Maori language. Whether or not the British agreed to safeguard the language, when rural Maori moved to the cities, which they did in great numbers in the mid 1900s they spoke English to get by, often instead of using their own language.Today only about 70,000 of 500,000 Maori (out of a total New Zealand population of 4 million) are native speakers.

Less than one percent of people in New Zealand communicate using New Zealand Sign Language, but its official recognition gives it credence as a legitimate means of communication. Want to learn New Zealand Sign Language? First of all, great idea: “Thumb’s up!!” Second, you can get started here.

To say hello: look at this PDF worksheet. To say goodbye…look at the same PDF worksheet.

More information:

Twenty-nine of New Zealand’s many ways to say hello | Read the 2006 “New Zealand Sign Language Act” | “Deaf Aotearoa” invites you to celebrate “NZ Sign Language Week” | New Zealand History Online’s “100 Maori words every New Zealander should know

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