To celebrate Te Wiki o te Reo Maori 2008, a group of dedicated volunteers has worked together over the course of the past year to translate the Google homepage and search interface into the Maori language.
"The Google in Maori project has been a labour of love and reflects the passion we have to providing digital platforms for Maori communities. We also wanted to encourage Maori to consider work within the IT sector, especially rangatahi (young people)" said Potaua Biasiny-Tule, Managing Director of TangataWhenua.com, who helped to spear-head the project.
"Our goal was to bring together a committed team of language practitioners and leading Maori IT specialists to create a Maori language tool that could be used freely and that would be relevant to the digital world."
The team volunteered to translate the homepage as part of the Google in Your Language programme, an initiative started by Google in 2001 that allows anyone to sign up as a volunteer to translate Google products into languages they currently are not available in. The programme has been a success because it helps pull from the knowledge and wisdom of many, and allows people to help create web tools in their own languages.
The call for Maori translators to work on the project began in 2001 when Craig Neville Manning, Google's Head of Engineering in New York, began coordinating with Dr. Te Taka Keegan. By 2006 over 68% of the translations had been completed, and the New Zealand Maori Internet Society put out the call for more volunteers. In June 2007, Potaua and Nikolasa Biasiny-Tule begin facilitating the translations and contacted Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Maori seeking their assistance.
Wiha Te Raki Hawea Stevens then began work translating the full list of messages, and in April 2008 Dr Te Taka Keegan and Wareko Te Angina began the final work of verifying the translations and checking them for consistency.
During this time more than 1,600 terms and phrases, totalling 8,500 words, have been translated, allowing for the Google homepage, search interface and search preferences to be viewed in te reo Maori.
"When we started, there was a collective desire to see Maori listed amongst the more than one hundred language options for the Google homepage and today, we have achieved that" said Mr Biasiny-Tule.
This stage of the Google Maori project was co-ordinated by husband and wife team Potaua & Nikolasa Biasiny-Tule, who have been active in developing online Maori communications since 2002.
"It is imperative to find resources that resonate with the next generation of language users. The key is to find innovative ways to attract them, thereby ensuring language sustainability," stated Mrs. Biasiny-Tule. "Our hope is that Google in Maori is a profound step in the journey towards the long term survival of te reo Maori."