English and Maori, the official languages

English and Maori are the official languages of New Zealand.

The Maori Language

Maori became an official language in 1987. New Zealand is the only country in the world where Maori is spoken. Despite its official status, the language continues to struggle against being lost.

In the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi, Queen Victoria gave her word to the Maori that their language would be protected. however, it was only in recent years that the Maori language gathered its widespread support. Currently the Maori language is used in the media and in schools.

In the 1940's when Maori people moved out of rural areas and into the cities the Maori language began to decline and children were raised in English rather than Maori.

By the 1970's, the Maori language was close to extinction and therefore an effort was made to include the native language into the media and school curriculums.

A recent survey by the New Zealand government shows about 130,000 people speak some Maori in New Zealand.

In early 2006 New Zealand became the first country to declare sign language as an official language.


Kiwi Slang

The New Zealand accent can be difficult to understand, even for speakers of the English language.

Here are just a few samples of specific words used in daily life New Zealand:

Barbie - Barbeque

Bro - Friend, Brother

Bush - Forest of native trees and plants

Down Under - Australia, New Zealand

Footy - Rugby

Gidday - Hello, Good day

Good as Gold - Affirmative, approval of quality

Heaps - A lot

Hows it going mate? - Greeting, how are you?

Jumper - Sweatshirt

Knackered - Exhausted

Mozzie - Mosquito

No Sweat - No problem

OE - Overseas experience, long term holiday

Op Shop - Second hand shop

Pouring down - Heavy rain

Ripped off - Paid too much

Sweet As - Very good

Ta - Thanks

Tea - Dinner, evening meal

Togs - Swimwear


Maori words that are often used in daily life in New Zealand:

Whanau- Family

Kumara - Sweet Potato

Haere Mai - Come here


How good is your New Zealand English?

Do you know your hangi from your hongi? 

Source: Oxford Dictionaries.

New Zealand English is the latest in their series of quizzes testing your knowledge of World Englishes. Highly recommended!



Read more: English Language Requirements for Migrants


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