Maori language keyboard in development – native speakers wanted!

Maori language keyboard in development – native speakers wanted!


Technology firm developing Maori language keyboard

In a world were many indigenous languages are in decline, indigenous language apps could make a difference. From Australian to African countries, indigenous languages are often only passed on orally. Especially for the younger generations, growing up with other dominant languages in school and in the workplace, this can lead to alienation from their native language.

But, the tech world is moving in to set things straight. With language technology becoming part of everyday life, also smaller language niches become interesting for companies to develop. Enter Appen. This Australian tech firm is developing a free Maori language keyboard on mobile devices. What’s more, they are looking for six Maori speakers to help them test it.

The keyboard could prove to be a supportive technology in sustaining culture and language, by lowering the usability threshold. Alexander Chan, project supervisor of the initiative, states: “It is a very rare opportunity for us to help prepare the Maori language for the digital age”. Since the Maori keyboard will have advanced functions tailored for the language, the developers ask native speakers themselves to become involved and test the keyboard in real-life circumstances.

Appen is not the only firm with exciting initiatives to keep indigenous languages alive. In the neighbouring-country Australia, researchers have been developing a translation app for the indigenous Kayardild language in Queensland. “This is something that’s just starting to be embraced in terms of the new wave of digital literacy for Indigenous languages,” states Professor Nicholas Evans, who has been leading the translation work. Here, in this unique partnership between a linguist, an app designer, and a remote Aboriginal community, developers and local elders work together in translating sound recordings and transform them into a language app that can be dowloaded on mobile phones. It is interesting to see how both initiatives develop into practical use and how similar technological apps may come to the aid of indigenous language.

Please visit Appen if you’re interested in the testing the keyboard.

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Jimmy Nelson Foundation supports Maori culture