TJ Perenara on learning Te Reo Māori and becoming a Dad

GettyImages 1209147235

Perenara featured on Sky Sport’s Investec Super Rugby Isolation Nation and explained his journey to Israel Dagg. One of his most helpful books has been ‘Making Māori Easy’ which is by Scotty and Stacey Morrison.


“We use that book for our wānanga’s [study/learning]. Greer [wife], Byron, Michaela and I have been doing our Māori at home. We have a mental skills guy, Luke Rowe, at the Hurricanes so I hit him up because he speaks fluent Te Reo Māori. I was talking to him and said it would be a lost opportunity if I didn’t hit him up and get some lessons.


“When we were training and playing, me and Pouri [Rakete-Stones] would go in on a Monday and Wednesday morning before training and do a wānanga with him and he would teach us Te Reo Māori. We were doing stuff at home and then getting lessons with him.”


Perenara is Te Arawa and Ngati Rangitihi and he hails from the Porirua suburb, Titahi Bay. He said learning the language and being able to pass it onto his own children one day is his main motivator.



“I remember growing up and going to kura [school] and not speaking Te Reo Māori and while I knew I was Māori, I felt like I wasn’t Māori enough to be around the marae and to be around people who spoke Māori. People told me I was a plastic Māori because I didn’t speak the language.


“Whenever I was pushed into a scenario whether it be a pōwhiri [Māori welcoming], kapa haka [group dance] or just a Te Reo Māori conversation, I always hid and went to Pākehā, because I felt more comfortable. I didn’t want to expose myself to Māori because I was embarrassed and thought it was my fault that I didn’t speak the language.”


The 64-Test All Black is the proud leader of the All Blacks haka, but he says learning Te Reo Māori is certainly challenging.


“It’s hard, but like anything that’s not your normal, you’ve got to be in it. I tried to learn a while ago and I was doing really well and then I stopped and didn’t do anything for ages, and I lost it really quickly. So, if you’re not speaking it or learning it daily and adding bits of Te Reo Māori to your everyday life, it’s hard.”


Perenara said his household try to add little aspects of the language into their day, but when they do their wānanga, they try and say everything in Te Reo Māori first and then translate to Pākehā.


He and his wife shared the exciting news earlier this year that they are expecting a little pēpi [baby], due on August 18.


“I’m really looking forward to it. It’s something we have both been looking forward to for a long time. I’ve got two young nieces and I love spending time with kids. I love how raw kids are, you can teach kids and they tell it how it is. We will enjoy the journey we are going to be having as parents”.


Catch Investec Super Rugby Isolation Nation every Wednesday and Sunday at 7:30pm on Sky Sport 1.



View all