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New Zealand Mt Cook

 Language in New Zealand

Official Languages in NZ

English and Māori are the official languages of New Zealand. Māori became an official language in 1987. In April 2006, New Zealand became the first country to declare sign language as an official language, alongside Māori and English. New Zealand Sign Language, or NZSL, is the main language of the deaf community in New Zealand.

Would you like to improve your English?  

We'd like to help you do that!

In the language section of this website, we've got some great information to help you improve your English.

To begin, we've got vocabulary words and New Zealand English "Kiwi" slang words to help you improve your understanding of what's being said. That way, you will be “sweet as” when at a supermarket and the cashier asks you, “is that the lot?”

Many local everyday words have been borrowed from the Māori language, including words for local flora, fauna, place names and the natural environment. The everyday use of Māori words, usually colloquial, include words like "kia ora" ("hello"), or "kai" ("food") which almost all New Zealanders know.  Māori is ever present and has a significant conceptual influence in the legislature, government, and community agencies (e.g. health and education), where legislation requires that proceedings and documents are translated into Māori (under certain circumstances, and when requested).

ISMNZ workers throughout New Zealand are involved in helping students build their vocabulary, practice conversational English, and connecting students with volunteers from our local communities who have a heart to help international students.We can also give you tips on New Zealand body language. For example, what does "personal space" mean? Do you look people in the eye, or avoid eye contact? What is the standard greeting?

Learn some Kiwi-English

Sweet as: Has a range of meanings based on the context, from "thank you", "you are welcome" or an acknowledgement of what has been said

Eh (Ay): Can be added at the end of a sentence to turn it into a question, it can mean "what do you think?"

All good: Used in reply when someone is thanked, similar to saying "you are welcome"

Keen: Interested or enthusiastic. If someone suggests an idea, those who are interested may reply with "keen!"

Crackup: Funny

Yeah, nah: Acknowledging the other person has been heard, but the answer is still no

Nah, yeah: A non-committal yes (whichever word the phrase ends with is the answer)

Togs: Swimwear

Jandals: Sliders/flip-flops/thongs

Dairy: A corner street convenience store, selling daily essentials like milk, newspapers and some food

Tramping: Hiking, usually a multi-day hike

Lolly: Confectionery/candy/sweets


Learn some Māori words

Aotearoa: New Zealand (land of the long white cloud)

Kia ora: Hello

Nau mai: Welcome

Māori: The indigenous people of New Zealand, and the name of the language of the indigenous people of New Zealand

Te reo Māori: The Māori language

Aroha: Love

Kai: Food

Hāngi: Food cooked in an earth oven, using heated rocks and steam to cook it

Koha: A gift or donation

Pākehā: A New Zealander of non-Māori descent, usually European

Tāne: Man

Wahine: Woman

Tamariki: Child

Whānau: Extended family

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