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Nolan Raihania – Ease of learning Italian

C company veteran Nolan Raihania explains why it was easy for te reo Māori speakers to pick up the Italian language – more so than others.


When we came back from the fighting at the front, we would go for rest somewhere, they would arrange a place for us to stay. It wasn’t in the towns but in the homes just like at home – we would stay in houses, in houses. The Italians really warmed to us Māori, partly because we were so quick at acquiring their language. We quickly learnt their language and their pronunciation, which went A E I O U (different from English). Those people had different pronunciation from the English speakers’ one of A E I O U (sounding very English), don't you agree?... For the equivalent of ‘kia ora’ they would say ‘buon giorno’, that’s their ‘good morning’ – buon giorno. And the English speakers would say ‘bon jorno’, and that wasn’t very nice to Italian ears. But to us the Māori, the English speakers’ pronunciation was quite wrong. ‘Come state?’ This means ‘How are you?’ ‘Bene, bene’ – ‘good, good’ – the English speakers would say it ‘benny’.