Blog: Able celebrates Te Wiki o te Reo Māori

Audio Description, Blog, Captioning 11 Jul 2016

Last week was Te Wiki o te Reo Māori (Māori Language Week), and to celebrate, we took some time to think about how we treat Māori content. Te reo Māori often crops up in our shows – whether it’s TK talking to Tillie on Shortland Street, Mihingarangi Forbes discussing current affairs on The Hui, or Dai Henwood signing off on Family Feud. Te reo Māori is part of what makes New Zealand television unique.

Non-English content presents a challenge to our captioning team especially, as we’re charged with capturing as much spoken content as we can. We do our best, but we often resort to phrases like (SPEAKS FRENCH) or (SPEAKS LOCAL LANGUAGE) when it comes to foreign languages.

Te reo Māori is a bit different, because it isn’t a foreign language – it’s the indigenous language of Aotearoa New Zealand. Te reo Māori is protected by Te Tiriti o Waitangi (the Māori-language version of The Treaty of Waitangi), which recognises ‘o ratou taonga katoa’ (‘all of their treasured things’), and just like New Zealand Sign Language, it’s one of our official languages.

Given the special status of te reo Māori in Aotearoa New Zealand, we want to ensure that we’re captioning and describing as much of our Māori content as possible, as accurately as possible. Although we don’t have any fluent speakers here at Able, we’re fortunate in that five of us speak some Māori, and that of those five, three of us are currently studying it.

Using te reo Māori here at Able isn’t just about transcribing the language when we hear it. It’s also about accurately representing Māori culture in our captions and audio description. Are they singing, or are they singing a waiata (Māori song)? Is she wailing, or is she performing a karanga (call of welcome)? Is he just speaking, or is he reciting a karakia (Māori prayer)? By making these distinctions, we not only treat te ao Māori (the Māori world) with respect, we’re able to convey what’s going on much more accurately to you, our users.

As part of Te Wiki o te Reo Māori, I offered to update our Māori resources and run a seminar on how we can make Māori content accessible. There was so much interest that we ended holding three sessions, just so we could fit everyone in!

For me, the highlight of the week was listening to the Audio Describers discussing what they might do to convey Māori content more accurately. As a Caption Producer, I’m intrigued by what the Audio Description team does. It’s always exciting to learn more about how they work their magic.

It was great to hear my colleagues talking enthusiastically about te reo Māori, and giving it a go!

Philip, Able Caption Producer

Philip Mckibbin
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