Bilingual signage

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Bilingual names are an important component of the cultural aspect of language. Place names, personal names and common names often fulfil the functions of transmitting history, traditions, events and values, and they do not necessarily require an in-depth knowledge of the language in order to be of use.
The power of bilingual names as a symbol of identity serves to reinforce the dual nature of our heritage and the two official languages in Aotearoa, New Zealand. This in turn embraces our desire to form partnerships and relationships with Tangata Whenua.

Why do we have Māori words on them?
To reflect our special relationship with Tangata Whenua as Treaty partners, and to actively support the aim of Ngāi Tahu to revitalise and nurture te reo Māori for future generations.
Who translated the signs?
Nekenekeite Rangi Paul with help from the Puna Reo ki Ngāi Tahu, the language unit of the Ngāi Tahu Rūnanga, Dr. Terry Ryan (Libraries Kaumatua), representatives from Tangata Whenua out in the community and Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori (Māori Language Commission).
How were the Māori words chosen?
Through a process of extensive research based on whakapapa in consultation with Ngāi Tahu.
Why did we use ‘Ng’ instead of the ‘K’ used in Ngāi Tahu dialect?
All the Māori terms were endorsed by the Ngāi Tahu language unit. Although ‘K’ is used by many Kai Tahu people, the ‘Ng’ is the legal identifier on all Ngāi Tahu official documents. We were strongly encouraged by local Hapu to stay with the more familiar ‘Ng’ at this stage.
Why do some signs have the Māori first and some have the English first?
Signs where the subject matter is Māori e.g. Ngāi Tahu Collection, use Māori first to reflect the cultural significance of the area or the collection.

Key decisions relating to the bilingual concepts are:

  • All internal hanging signs will have a Māori translation. This will appear in a font size and style that gives it equal prominence but allow for the often big difference in the length of words.
  • Signs located in the Ngā Pounamu Māori Centre, plus any hanging sign which has a Māori name as the subject e.g. Ngāi Tahu Collection, will have the Māori word first with the English word below.

Haneta Pierce, Māori Services Librarian, November 2002