The Polynesian languages are generally thought to be pretty easy to learn compared to other world languages. There is some truth to this, but Maori is probably harder than it seems. We take a look at two Polynesian languages, Maori and Hawaiian.
Maori and other Polynesian languages have a reputation for being quite easy to learn. The main problem for English speakers is that the sentence structure is backwards compared to English. In addition, macrons can cause problems.
One problem with Maori is dialects. The dialects are so diverse that this means that there are multiple words for the same thing. Swiss German has a similar issue, with up to 50 words for each common household item (nearly every major dialect has its own word for common objects):
ngongi, noni, koki, wai – water
whiri, rarangi, hiri – to plait, to twist, to weave
pai, maitai – good
tu, tū, tutehu, mātika – to stand
mau, mou – to hold
pau, pou – to be exhausted
ika, tohorā – whale
ika, ngohi – fish
kāwei, kāwai – line
ori, kori, keukeu, koukou, neke, nuku – to move
haere, hara, here, horo, whano – to go, to come
hara, hapa, hē – to be wrong
kōrerorero, wānanga, rūnanga – to discuss
tohunga, tahunga – priest
matikuku, maikuku – finger nail
kanohi, konohi, mata, whatu, kamo, karu – eye, face
Entire Maori sentences can be written with vowels only.
E uu aau?
Are yours firm?
I uaa ai.
It rained as usual.
I ui au ‘i auau aau?’
It will be difficult/hard/heavy!
On the plus side, the pronunciation is simple, and there is no gender. The language is as regular as Japanese. No Polynesian language has more than 16 sounds, and they all lack tones. They all have five vowels, which can be either long or short. A consonant must be followed by a vowel, so there are no consonant clusters. All consonants are easy to pronounce.
Maori gets a 3 rating, average difficulty.
Hawaiian is a pretty easy language to learn. It is easy to pronounce, has a simple alphabet, lacks complex morphology and has a fairly simple syntax.
Hawaiian gets a 2 rating, very easy to learn.