Helping businesses lift their te reo Māori capability

Victoria University of Wellington Te Kawa a Māui lecturer Dr Vini Olsen-Reeder is helping financial education firm Banqer lift its Māori language and cultural competency.

“I want to see a bilingual nation in New Zealand, and celebrating te reo Māori promotes this vision,” says Dr Olsen-Reeder.  “It’s great to see businesses turning to te reo Māori more and more to create a point of difference for their product.”

Banqer is a financial education platform  to build Australian and New Zealand students’ confidence with money. Dr Olsen-Reeder’s partnership with Banqer started when he gave translation advice to the kaupapa Māori (incorporating Māori knowledge, skills and values) company’s chief executive, Kendall Flutey. A year later, he started translating the Banqer programme.

This isn’t the first time Dr Olsen-Reeder has partnered with organisations to provide te reo Māori advice, but it’s by far the biggest project he has worked on.

Dr Olsen-Reeder started by translating a section of the Banqer programme and this is being tested by students and teachers in kura kaupapa (Māori-immersion schools).

“During testing the kura will consider every aspect of the translation including dialect and the use of transliterations from English to Māori. They might even have thoughts around the concept of money and the importance society places on it as a whole, and want those thoughts reflected differently from what they see on Banqer at the moment. Equally, they might care about none of these things and love it as it is! Either way, I want them to drive that decision making,” says Dr Olsen-Reeder.

Translating English to te reo Māori is no easy feat. “It’s a fickle task–you have to make serious decisions about deviating from the original text in ways that are culturally acceptable,” says Dr Olsen-Reeder.

Despite his enthusiasm for businesses incorporating more te reo Māori, Dr Olsen-Reeder does have a word of warning.

“You need to be careful with how you engage with te reo. Businesses will spend thousands on branding and marketing in English–but don’t put the same care into translating that content into Māori. Merely opening a Māori dictionary and swapping out words is a high risk task. A lack of care is always obvious, even to people without te reo language skills.”

Dr Olsen-Reeder encourages everyone to build their Māori language and cultural competencies.

“Don’t be afraid to just pick up one te reo word/ phrase a week and swap it for an English phrase you use a lot. Our te reo Māori at Victoria webpage is right there at your fingertips – go for it,” says Dr Olsen-Reeder.