Google Maori helps te reo go places
Google Maori is set to start next week – just in time for Maori Language Week. Potaua Biasiny-Tule and wife Nikolasa decided last year that as Googlers could search in Elmer Fudd and Klingon lingo, then someone had to do the work for a te reo Maori version.
While Google is simple to use, translating technical phrases into Maori had its difficulties, which is why it took a year to do the job with more than 40 people involved, Mr Biasiny-Tule said.
“It occasionally did our heads in. There were a few controversial ones, especially with dialects, so we had to come to common agreement.” Mr Biasiny-Tule, of Tuhoe and Ngati Pikiao descent, is learning Maori. His wife is Puerto Rican and runs their online Maori media business.
“We had her half, knowledge of technology, and my half, knowledge of te reo, and we just went from there.” Mrs Biasiny-Tule, 35, said making sure the language went new places was important. “Our oldest boy Atutahi is in kohanga at the moment. He’s almost four and using the computer. We’ve been feeling like unless our kids take up the reo, it’ll be lost.
“But it [the language] needs to connect with him and it needs to reflect him. Technology is one of the ways to connect our kids to the language.”
Over the past year Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Maori (the Maori Language Commission), who have also worked on translations for Microsoft, provided specialist advice and help.
“We’re setting all the kupu hou [new words] for technology,” said chief executive Huhana Rokx.
“It’s not as easy as people think. You have to think technology but at the same time you have to think traditional in terms of the words.
“In many cases, what we’re doing is using old words in new ways.”
One example, she said was rorohiko, or computer, which is made up of roro, the brain and lightning, hiko.
Google spokesman David Griswold thanked the volunteers who worked on the project.