The aim of this chapter is to provide some guidance to the pronunciation of Māori words. Because the Māori vowel sounds are pronounced very differently to English, and are spoken with both short and long sounds, it is often difficult for non-speakers of the language to say Māori words correctly. However, it is important to try and pronounce Māori words properly, however `un-natural' it may sound in the accustomed New Zealand-English idiom. Correct pronunciation indicates a bicultural awareness and respect for Māori culture generally. It also contributes to the provision of a culturally safe environment for speakers of the language.


The Māori language accommodates a variety of regional dialects. To the fluent speaker of Māori, the dialects are easily intelligible. However, for those less familiar with the language, recognising dialect differences may pose some difficulties. This section of the guide offers a brief description of some tribal differences in dialect.

It is important that libraries are aware of dialect differences, particularly if bilingual signs are being considered. The dialect range described here is not comprehensive. However, it does demonstrate the need for `fine-tuning' once the preferred base words have been identified.


Ng is not pronounced but substituted with the K, eg. Whare Mātauranga = Whare Mātauraka Another common example is Ngai Tahu = Kai Tahu. Note: Some parts of the South Island, particularly the Nelson and Blenheim areas, have dialects from Taranaki and Waikato regions.

NORTHLAND [some districts]

Wh, in some cases the w is not pronounced eg. Whakaaro = Hakaaro.


Ng, the g is not pronounced, eg. Mātauranga = Mātaurana


Wh, the h is not pronounced eg. Whakaaro = Wakaaro

letters of the Māori alphabet

The Māori alphabet is made up of ten consonants and five vowels:


The ten consonants are:
h k m n ng p r t w wh

The majority are similar in sound to the English consonants, however, there are several that needs to be carefully looked at and practiced.

For example:
r is very short and slightly rolled.
wh is pronounced as an f
ng is pronounced as the ng in singer and not as in finger.



The five vowels are:
a e i o u

The most difficult component to grasp for those who have not grown up hearing Māori spoken is the pronunciation of the vowels. Correct vowel sounds are essential and can be mastered through constant practice. The pronunciation of each vowel remains constant apart from its length. The purpose of lengthened vowels is to differentiate between words that are spelt the same yet have different meanings.

For example:

ana a cave
anā, anaa there!
āna, aana his or hers

In some instances the double vowel is used to denote the long sound. However, we will adopt the policy set out by Te Taura Whiri i te reo Māori (Māori Language Commission) and denote the lengthened vowel with a macron or a line above the emphasised letter. It is impossible to demonstrate in writing the precise pronunciation of the sounds of a language. Only the human voice can do that. Throughout this guide we will liken the Māori sound to their nearest equivalent sound in English. Where new Māori words have appeared translations have been provided.


Remember the vowels are pronounced in two ways, short and long (denoted by macron or line above vowel). Practice these until you are familiar with the sound before proceeding to the next stage.

practise 1

launch SHORT SOUNDS - English equivalent sound

practise 2

launch SHORT SOUNDS - Māori equivalent sound

practise 3

launch LONG SOUNDS - English equivalent sound

practise 4

launch LONG SOUNDS - Māori equivalent sound

Now that you are familiar with the vowels and how to sound them separately, we need to go one step further and practice the sounds of the vowels when combined. Practice these so that each vowel is distinctly heard. Keep repeating until the sound runs together smoothly.

launch PRACTISE 5

launch PRACTISE 6

launch PRACTISE 7

launch PRACTISE 8

launch PRACTISE 9


Now that you are familiar with the vowels and consonants our next step is to combine the two to achieve a smooth sound. Practise these until you can run the consonants and vowels together smoothly. The short sound is used first followed by the long sounding vowel.

launch PRACTISE 10


A syllable in Māori is either a single or double same vowel, or a consonant and a vowel. As examples for this section, words used in the libraries will be used as models.

Practice these and remember where two different vowels are together, each must be pronounced separately.

launch PRACTISE 11

Practice and familiarise yourself with how syllables are pronounced in this section until you become more confident and fluid. Breaking down the word in this way makes it easier for the learner to quickly get a grasp of pronouncing Māori words.


Now that you have mastered the pronunciation exercises, try the following greetings by applying the same techniques.

Kia ora Hello / Thank-you (General)
Tēnā koe Hello / Thank-you (one person)
Tēnā kōrua Hello / Thank-you (two people)
Tēnā koutou Hello / Thank-you (more than two)
Mōrena Good morning
Ata mārie Good morning
Pō mārie Good night
Tēnā koe Hinemoa Hello Hinemoa
Tēnā koe e Kiri * Hello Kiri
Mōrena Hinemoa Morning Hinemoa
Mōrena e Kiri * Morning Kiri

* Where a persons name has only one or two syllables use e before name