This story is part of Te Wiki o te Reo Māori. Check out the rest of the stories here.

Young people are leading the way when it comes to speaking te reo Māori - and it’s growing with each generation. 

We looked into Māori fluency and use of te reo in Aotearoa by using data from Statistics New Zealand and online guide, Te Ara.  

In 1900, te reo fluency among Māori was 90% and that figure dropped to 25% in 1960, according to a survey.  

This survey reflected a time when Māori children were punished for speaking te reo Māori in schools.

After World War II, an increasing number of Māori were moving to urban centres

As Māori became more integrated with western culture, te reo Māori proficiency began to drop.  

Data from the 2021 General Social Survey (GSS) has shown 34% of Māori said they are able to speak te reo at least fairly well, compared with 7.9% for the total population. 

The GSS is a bi-annual survey conducted by Statistics New Zealand that gives a picture of the social wellbeing of New Zealanders - around 8500 people aged 15 and over take part. 

The most up-to-date data Statistics New Zealand has on te reo Māori proficiency comes from this survey.

Compared to the 2018 GSS, the proportion of people able to speak more than a few words or phrases of te reo Māori rose from 24% to 30%. 

Almost 8% of New Zealanders can speak te reo at least fairly well, which is up from 6.1% in 2018.

There has also been more support for te reo Māori to be used daily, data from the 2021 GSS shows.

For example, the percentage of New Zealanders who think te reo Māori should be a core subject in primary schools rose from 53.9% in 2016 to 61.9% in 2021.

And the percentage of New Zealanders who think it would be good if all people living in Aotearoa spoke both te reo Māori and English went up from 35.4% in 2016 to 44.2% in 2021. 

People aged 15 to 24 and 25 to 34 were also the most likely age groups to be able to speak more than a few words or phrases of te reo Māori, at 41.3% and 43.5% respectively.

Compare this with people aged between 65 to 74 who were 18.2% likely to be able to speak more than a few words or phrases of te reo Māori. 

The new data showed a “welcome improvement” in New Zealanders being able to speak te reo Māori, Statistics New Zealand work and wellbeing senior manager Becky Collett said. 

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