The In’s and Out’s of developing a language plan

By Kirstin Te Wao, Head of Māori Development

There’s a lot of learnings one tends to collect over ten years working in the same company, in the pursuit of normalising te reo Māori in the workplace. I’m going to attempt to share some of those learnings over the next week in celebration, commemoration and commiseration of Te Wiki o te Reo Māori – feel free to read the first and second posts here:

A five-point plan to celebrating Te Wiki o te Reo Māori
Some learned “Do”s and “Don’t”s of adopting a project of team name in te reo
Organising a company pōwhiri in the age of alert levels

Tūpuna Māori (Māori ancestors) were wise, and thoughtful. They left us many treasures in the form of whakatauki (proverbs) to steer us in the right direction when life’s often tricky compass sends us astray. When in doubt, I’ve often drawn on this wisdom to take action whether at either at work, home or play. One such whakatauki

Tōku reo, tōku ohooho. Tōku reo, tōku māpihi maurea. Tōku reo, tōku whakakai mārihi. My language is my precious gift, my object of affection and my prized ornament.

In 2018 Vodafone signed a ‘Whakaaetanga kia mahi tahi’ (an agreement to work together) with Te Taura Whiri i te reo Māori, and in May 2019 we submitted our Rautaki Reo Māori – a Māori Language Learning Plan.

Building culturally capable employees was the overarching goal in our plan. Looking back on some of the things we committed to in the plan, and delivered are:

  • Identify a clear narrative for engaging with Māori (approved business case for a dedicated role in Nov 2019)
  • Establishing a kaupapa Māori framework for engaging with Māori (Māori development strategy in July 2020)
  • Demonstrable understanding and knowledge of the Māori world by the Vodafone team (launched te reo and tikanga programmes for our people from March 2020)

To help get you started Te Taura Whiri i te reo Māori have helpfully provided an overview of the Language Planning process and how they can support you in that journey.

What I learnt from developing a Language Plan is the following:

  • Partner with te reo experts! Te Taura Whiri i te reo Māori have upped their digital game and so much info is now available on their website. Te reo māori is a scarce (but growing) skillset within the Private sector, so it’s important if we’re using te reo externally it’s approved or developed by qualified translators. We’re grateful to have partnered with Pae Tū Ltd who are licensed translators and not only provide Māori Language Services to our organisation, but often go above and beyond to advise our English frameworks as well.
  • Think strategically. If language planning is not your area of experience yet, but you’re leading the kaupapa – then you need to invest in growing your strategic thinking skillset. I’ve heard people say things like; “I don’t buy into strategies. They’re just things that get written and then sit on a shelf.” I used to think they were right until I saw it in action. The beauty of writing a strategy for me is that when you pen a vision and put it to paper, you have a high level understanding of the direction you need to travel.
  • Take tactical action. The reality, is that we all need some quick wins on the board, to pick off the ‘low hanging fruit’ and to demonstrate to our shareholders that these efforts have led to greater returns, and deliver on corporate responsibilities and citizenship. A strong relationship with your learning and capability / training teams will be critical to the success of your plan. Enlist and encourage your colleagues from all walks of life and all levels of the organisation to use te reo. Not only is it a great personal development but in today’s Aotearoa-centric environment, it’s a professional no-brainer.

Looking back on the strategy today, and seeing how the Vodafone team is embracing, te reo I feel a strong sense of achievement and pride in our people and organisation. Don’t get me wrong – we’re no Air New Zealand (yet!) but we’re certainly excited about the future of te reo māori in Vodafone and the ongoing journey ahead.

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