New Zealand's indigenous language, the language of the Maori people, may be at risk. The New York Times estimates that only 125,000 of the 4.7 million people on New Zealand can currently speak the Maori language and that the number of fluent speakers is dropping. This is due, in part, to a new generation that lacks interest in the language. They may have found a solution in the Disney movie "Moana".

The number of fluent speakers of the Maori language is dropping

The former head of the Maori Language Commission has traced the decline of their language to the appearance of British Missionaries in New Zealand in 1814.

This is not an unusual story; historically, when white people showed up in new places, they decided that any culture that they encountered was inferior to their own and thus subject to their dominion. In the areas were they succeeded, assimilation became a necessity, and many unique cultural languages and practices have been lost as a result. During the Baby Boomer generation, the trend towards assimilation was still common, and many Maori people grew up without their native language. Now, students can be taught the language in immersion schools but many Maori parents, who grew up without the language, are worried the schools won't be as valuable as a common education. If the Maori language is going to survive, the Maori people need to learn to view it in a positive light.

A Maori translation of the film "Moana" might be able to help

At the end of New Zealand's Maori language week, people throughout the island were treated to a free showing of "Moana," after it was translated into the Maori language. "Moana" is the story of a chieftain's daughter from the Polynesian islands, and already includes pieces of Maori mythology, which makes it the perfect story to help the Maori culture feel relevant to the children that learn it.

The film was translated by Tweedie Waititi, who also tweaked a few of the scenes so that they wouldn't directly go against Maori cultural values. The 30 theaters that originally showed the film were fully booked, and some made plans to continue showing it later on.

In November the Maori version of "Moana," called "Moana Reo Māori" became available through iTunes.

According to the official facebook site of "Moana Reo Māori", it has been included as a special feature when you buy the original "Moana" DVD. One of the Maori songs, Tamatoa's "Shiny", is available for free through the DisneyMusicVevo account on YouTube. Additionally, Air New Zealand has made the video available on their planes. While it may be too early to say, it seems so far like this movie may be a huge help in revitalizing the Maori language.