Sunday 24 March 2019

Maori mad Aoife Makes NZ Debut

Dundalk woman heads to New Zealand for Maori celebrations

Aoife Finn
Aoife Finn
The world famous haka, which is performed by the All Blacks before every game is part of the Maori tradition

Olivia Ryan

A Dundalk woman, who has become one of the first Irish people to study and learn the Maori national language, will speak at a special event in the University of New Zealand this week.

Trinity College PhD student Aoife Finn has been invited to the national language week in New Zealand after debuting her love of Maori on twitter earlier this year.

Speaking to the Argus before she headed down under last week, Aoife admitted that she​ had never heard 'te reo' before she came across the language in library books.

Now, the Ashbrook native is writing her PhD about the language.

'I guess I'm a bit of an anomaly,' she laughs. 'I've always loved languages, and linguistics, but when I read some of the Maori language for the first time I was just fascinated.

The syntax is fascinating, and I've really been enjoying learning it these past few months'

Although she had never even visited New Zealand before this week, Aoife had actually spent six years studying the Maori language.

'I thought well if I'm going to learn so much about it, I might as well try and speak it!'

The former Dun Lughaidh student, said she initially started tweeting some words and phrases to test her skills. And she couldn't believe the response.

'It got picked up by the media here and in New Zealand. I suppose it is a bit strange that an Irish girl would have such an interest in Maori, but I just thought it was fascinating.'

Aoife adds that even as a primary school pupil in the Friary she always had a keen eye for grammar, punctuation and syntax.

'It's not something a lot of people would be interested in, but it's always caught my eye.'

Her Doctorate studies recently led to an invitation from the University of New Zealand to attend the annual Te Wiki o te Reo M ori - the yearly celebration of the national language week.

'I was so honoured to be invited, and I'm really looking forward to meeting fluent speakers there and being able to develop the language.

Aoife, who also graduated from DkIT with a degree in Engineering before going on to study linguistics at Trinity, admits she is frequently asked what the Maori language is.

'I always say the Haka, it's my reference point. Everyone is familiar with the New Zealand rugby team's routine. It is an example of the language which most people know of.'

As to where her unique language skills will take her, Aoife adds ' I'm not exactly sure yet. A lot of people who study go on to work in industry.

So it's certainly something I would think about.'

Irish Independent