• Jershon Tatana has inspired New Zealanders by speaking te reo Maori to customers at McDonalds. (Screenshot/Maori Television )
"He is an outstanding role model for young people and the future of our language rests with his generation."
Alyssa Braithwaite

13 Sep 2017 - 4:17 PM  UPDATED 13 Sep 2017 - 4:17 PM

Serving up a McDonald's order in the Māori language has turned 17-year-old fast food worker Jershon Tatana into an internet sensation in New Zealand.  

As New Zealand marks Maori Language Week, a video of Tatana speaking in Te Reo Maori has gone viral.

Tatana surprised a group of Maori-language enthusiasts meeting at the McDonald's store in Hastings, New Zealand when he responded to them in their own tongue, Maori Television reports.

"I don't think they knew that I was able to speak Maori, but that's all good," Tatana, who speaks Maori at home with his family, tells Maori Television.

"The main thing is that we're speaking our language, so it lives."

Language advocate Jeremy Tatere McLeod had organised a breakfast at the fast food outlet as part of efforts to normalise Maori language.

The group had phoned the store to let them know they were coming, but didn't expect any staff to be able to speak Te Reo.

Serving up an order of McDonalds in the Māori language has seen 17-year-old Hastings McDonalds worker Jershon Tatana inspire thousands on the internet to speak Te Reo Māori.More tonight on Te Kāea.

Posted by Te Kaea on Monday, September 4, 2017

"He started speaking back - we were absolutely blown away," McLeod, who recorded a video of the exchange, told the New Zealand Herald.

"We were very pleasantly surprised."

The video has gone viral, inspiring thousands of New Zealanders to follow Tatana's example.

"There has been so many people that have followed and are now ordering their food in Māori at different places, even here too. We have people that come through the drive-through ordering in Māori," he says.

McLeod, who organises meetings in new environments as it forces speakers to learn and create new words, says it is through young people like Tatana that te reo will live on.

"We need to make the language relevant to our children. If they don't see any relevance, why would they bother learning it," McLeod says.

"He [Tatana] is an outstanding role model for young people and the future of our language rests with his generation."  

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