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PRACTICAL INFO

  • Writer's pictureAmazing New Zealand

Understanding Language in New Zealand: English and Maori

Updated: Jun 7

New Zealand English

New Zealanders have a unique accent that is similar to, but less pronounced than, the Australian accent. They are known for speaking quickly, often shortening vowels and consonants, making "New Zealand" sound like "Noozilan." If you have trouble understanding, simply ask them to repeat more slowly.


New Zealanders also have unique words:

  • Howzit (How are you?)

  • Dairy (Convenience store)

  • Bach (Holiday home)

  • Bar-be (BBQ)

  • Chilly bin (Cool box)

  • Jandals (Beach sandals)


Māori Language

Maori is the native language of New Zealand's indigenous people. While not commonly spoken as a first language, it is prevalent in place names, on radio and television, in marae (Maori meeting houses), and increasingly in schools. Place names with 'wh' are pronounced like 'f' without the top teeth touching the bottom lip (e.g., Whakatane is pronounced pha-ka-tun-eh).


Common Māori Words

Here are a few Maori words you might encounter:

  • Haere-mai: Welcome

  • Haere-ra: Goodbye

  • Kai: Food

  • Kia ora: Hello

  • Kumara: Sweet potato

  • Mana: Prestige, respect

  • Pa: Fortified village

  • Tapu: Sacred

  • Wai: Water

  • Whanau: Family

  • Whare: House

  • Koha: Tip or donation

  • Pakeha: European white person


Understanding the nuances of New Zealand English and basic Maori words can enhance your travel experience, making it easier to connect with locals and appreciate the rich cultural heritage. Whether you’re navigating a conversation or exploring cultural sites, this guide will help you feel more at home in New Zealand.


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