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Cook Islands Māori

Te 'Epetoma o te reo Māori Kuki Airani: Cook Islands Language Week

Young person in orange dress and pink headdress.

Kia orana, turou 'āere mai ki te epetoma o te reo Kuki Airani - Welcome to Cook Islands Language Week

Kia orāna! Cook Islands Language Week / Te epetoma o te reo Māori Kuki Airani takes place from Sunday 30 July to Saturday 5 August 2023.

This page provides ideas, resources, links, and inspiration to help you learn and celebrate the languages of the Cook Islands with your school community.

Languages of the Cook Islands

There are three distinct Polynesian languages spoken in the Cook Islands.

  • Cook Islands Māori is an Eastern Polynesian language with a number of dialects. This language belongs to the same language family as New Zealand Māori and the languages of Hawai‘i and Tahiti.
  • Pukapuka is a Western Polynesian language, belonging to the same language family as the languages of Sāmoa, Tuvalu, and Tokelau.
  • Palmerston Island has its own unique and distinctive mixture of Cook Islands Māori and English.

Cook Islands Māori has several distinct dialects. Speakers of one dialect can understand the others.

The dialects are:

  • Aitutaki
  • Ātiu, Ma‘uke, and Miti‘āro (Ngāpūtoru)
  • Mangaia
  • Manihiki and Rakahanga
  • Rarotonga
  • Tongareva (Penrhyn).


Dialect and resources on this page

The dialect of Rarotonga is the most widely used and standardised dialect, both in the Cook Islands and within Cook Islands communities in New Zealand. This page lists resources and ideas to support the learning of this particular dialect. You may be able to call on people in your community to learn other dialects or languages of the Cook Islands.


The New Zealand Curriculum Online nautilus logo

Cook Islands Language Week - NZ Curriculum Online
NZC Online provides curriculum connections and ideas about how you, your class, and your school can engage wtih Cook Island Language Week.

Language Resources

Ministry for Pacific Peoples

Resources for Cook Islands Language Week 2023
Downloadable resources from the Ministry for Pacific Peoples.


Cook Islands Language Week resource Te ’Epetoma o te reo Māori Kūki ’Āirani
This Te Papa resource, published in 2016, is still useful. It has pronunciation tips, everyday phrases, stories and songs, and more. You can download a PDF of the full document.


Cook Island Māori language games

Digital Dialects

Free-to-use games from Digital dialect. Includes language learning games, vocabulary builders, numbers, and quizzes.


Supporting Pacific learners | Resources
Online resources to use with students for Language Week.

Libraries and museums

Christchurch City Libraries – Ngā Kete Wānanga-o-Ōtautahi

'Epetoma o te reo Māori Kūki ‘Āirani - Cook Islands Language Week
See what's on offer at Christchurch Libraries. Explore general resources and information about Cook Islands' crafts, and listen to Cook Island Māori greetings.


The University of Auckland Te Whare Wānanga o Tāmaki Makaurau

'E petoma o te reo Māori Kūki ‘Āirani Cook Islands Language Week
Celebrate Cook Islands culture by exploring the maps, letters, old government records, journals and research The University of Auckland Library team put together.


Tāmaki Paenga Hira Auckland War Memorial Museum

Cook Islands Language Week
Auckland War Memorial Museum shares Cook Islands items from its Natural History and Documentary Heritage collections, stories of service from Online Cenotaph, and a video to teach you simple words and phrases in Cook Islands Māori.

Ways to highlight language in your school community

Start at the beginning

Cook Islands

Encourage students to talk. Make sure they feel like they are always able to give language use a try.

If you have Cook Island speaking students or families at your school, have them model and teach. This video from Christchurch City Libraries of  Cook Islands Māori greetings encourages you to listen to, and speak, in the Cook Islands Māori language.

The Ministry of Education  Cook Island Language resources include I-E-Ko-Ko! An Introduction to Cook Islands Māori, a multi-media resource that supports the teaching and learning of Cook Islands Māori as an additional language at years 7 to 10.


Read aloud

Students at any age or level can delve into the  Cook Islands Māori online storybooks. Use the accompanying teacher support material to get guidance on using these books in the classroom.  

Get students to try to describe the main parts of the story, using Cook Island Māori language phrases. Ask Cook Island Māori speakers to come into the school and read to the children at lunchtime, in the classroom, or at an assembly.

Cook Islands Māori language app

Oranga Tamariki release world-first Pacific language app 27 September 2019
A short article that announces called Talanoa Mai, one of the first language apps. It includes seven Pacific Island languages – Samoan, Tongan, Niuean, Cook Islands Māori, Tuvaluan, Fijian and Tokelauan – in one app.

  • Talanoa Mai app
    An interactive learning resource that features the ability to toggle between languages, pronunciation support, and audio for prayers and songs.


New phone app to help save Cook Islands Māori language 13 April 2017
RNZ New mobile phone application to help save the Cook Islands Māori language. “The health of a people is determined by the health of their language.”


Digital stories

Using ICT to document our learning
In this EDtalk video, Sally Keane illustrates how ICT software enhanced and supported children's learning through the creation of digital stories, making language competency more visible and encouraging children to further extend their oracy, vocabulary, expression through story and visual art, and connections with the wider world.

Ways to encourage language promotion

Encourage the expertise and knowledge of students and whānau

Pasifika students bring a wealth of knowledge
Teokotai Tarai, HOD Languages, Teacher of Cook Island Māori Language, explains how Pasifika students come to the classroom with a wealth of knowledge and experiences. This can provide a platform for better student engagement and success.


Adult learners learning Cook Islands Māori reo in Porirua
This film clip from Tagata Pasifika describes how adults of Cook Island descent are learning Cook Islands Māori reo so they can pass on the knowledge to their own children.


Encourage debate, thought, and change

Potential language loss is an issue facing many New Zealand based Pasifika communities. Use these two differing views to spark a debate. Secondary students could research both sides to try to come up with a conclusion, or community members and Cook Islands leaders from the school community could be invited to watch or participate.


Cook Island Māori language expert confirms language is thriving
Despite 40,000 Cook Island Māori living in New Zealand and only 12,000 living in the Cook Islands, one Cook Island Māori language expert says their language is thriving more than ever.


Cook Islands Maori language endangered
This interview, aired on Radio New Zealand's Dateline programme, discusses how New Zealand's Cook Island language week has prompted community leaders to call for urgent intervention over the declining number of Cook Island Maori speakers.

Way to explore language diversity

Exploring language diversity within Cook Island languages

See how many different dialects are spoken in your community. Divide the class into dialect groups and challenge them to find out as much as they can about speaking that dialect before the week is over.

One way you could explore the Cook's language diversity is to discuss how and why there are so many different dialects in a small population. 

You could also design a way to acknowledge different dialects with your students. For example, you could write the different names for the same objects on signage.

Or you could dedicate one day of the week to learning words from different areas.

  • Monday, Rarotonga 
  • Tuesday, Aitutaki
  • Wednesday, Mangaia
  • Thursday, Ngā Pū Toru 
  • Friday, Manihiki/Rakahanga 
  • Saturday, Tongaleva  
  • Sunday, Pukapuka/Nassau


Show that languages other than English are valuable in your classroom too

Knowing a Pasifika language is not a barrier to being successful in English-medium schooling. Teachers who value and share the languages that Pasifika students bring with them into the classroom and deliberately build their English language skills help their Pasifika students to succeed.


Involve the whole community

Cook Islands Language Week in Tokoroa – Tokoroa High School's Puna Vai Ora Market Day
This is just one in a series of YouTube videos that show the way the whole Tokoroa community, led by schools and ECE providers, joined in celebrating the languages of the Cook Islands. From a market to a movie night, a whole range of events were planned that could also take place in your community.


Share your efforts with the world

If you are a Facebook, user there is a  Cook Islands Language Week group that you can join to keep up to date with news, resources, and events. You could share the celebration of Cook Islands language here, on a school blog, or maybe even with a school in the Cook Islands.