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Purpose and summary

Purpose

Measuring te reo Māori speakers: A guide to different data sources aims to increase understanding of the measurement of te reo Māori speakers in New Zealand and why the findings from different data sources may differ.

Statistics need to be well understood in order for them to be useful in making informed decisions.

Statistics New Zealand has measured speakers of te reo Māori through three different data sources. The census asks about the ability of people to hold a conversation ‘about a lot of everyday things’, while Te Kupenga (2013) asked about general and cultural well-being, with more-detailed questions on language proficiency. The 2001 Survey on the Health of the Māori Language was a more extensive study into language proficiency.

Differences in measures across these data sources have caused some confusion about what Statistics NZ data says about speaking proficiency in te reo Māori. These differences in measures can arise from the variation in scope and methodologies between data sources. The differences do not mean any particular source is wrong, but may simply reflect that they measure slightly different things. Also, the health of the Māori language should not be reduced to a single set of numbers.

This paper focuses on the statistical and methodological aspects of the different data sources. However, data users should note other factors (eg social and policy) may also impact on these data sources and time-series comparisons.

Summary

Statistics NZ has three data sources that present statistics on te reo Māori speakers: the census, Te Kupenga (a survey carried out in 2013), and the 2001 Survey on the Health of the Māori Language. A number of methodology differences between these data sources mean the resulting statistics do not always align with each other.

In 2013, we interviewed 5,500 Māori for Te Kupenga, our first survey of Māori well-being. This survey included questions about respondents’ ability to speak, listen, read, and write in te reo Māori, and the environments in which they used the language. We advise data users that Te Kupenga is best used to give the full picture of the health of the Māori language in 2013.

Since 1996, the census has provided information about the number of people who report they can have a conversation about a lot of everyday things in Māori. As such we advise that the census is best used to give a consistent time series. However, census data lacks definition about what an everyday conversation in Māori means.

The 2001 Survey on the Health of the Māori Language and Te Kupenga should not be treated as a time series, because methodology differences make direct comparison difficult.

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