Google needs help with Maori translation

  • 28/06/2013

Google is looking for Te Reo Maori speakers to help create a Maori translation service.

Google Translate is a free online service which can be used to translate words, sentences and entire websites. Currently it supports 71 languages, but not Maori.

Now Google New Zealand says Maori speakers need to help if they want to get Maori Google Translate going.

Maori speaker Te Taka Keegan, a senior computer science lecturer at Waikato University, worked with Google five years ago to help set up the Google Maori search engine.

He says having Google Translate available in Maori would be a big step forward.

"It opens our language to all the other languages of the world, puts our language in a state where it's recognised."

"To hear they're interested in supporting a language like Maori is great."

Mr Keegan says it will mean people from around the world who don't speak Maori will be able to read and understand Maori websites.

"We can create websites and write them in Maori and not have to worry about people not knowing what they are about."

But Google needs help to get the service up and running.

"We need more Maori speakers to join us and rate translations so we can see if Maori could become a candidate for full integration into Google Translate," Google New Zealand says.

Because Google Translate uses machine translation, it needs people to rate its Maori translations to make sure they are accurate, before the service can go live.

Mr Keegan encourages Maori speakers to do this.

"I've already done quite a few. I'll try to spend half an hour to an hour a day over Maori Language week."

And he is not worried about people giving up their time for free to rate the translations, because if Google goes ahead with the service, it will be free.

"It's a service at the end of it [that] will be really useful to us."

But the question is, would many people use this service?

Google New Zealand says about 10,000 people per day use the Google Maori search page.

Despite that number likely being insignificant to Google itself, which deals with billions of users, for a country of only about 30,000 fluent Maori speakers, Mr Keegan says it is quite a lot.

"For us it is really significant. It's good news."

He says the translation service could be particularly useful for Maori immersion schools and could help the Government save money on Maori translation services.

"We can put more pressure on the Government to provide more resources for Maori language."

Google New Zealand says it wants to help preserve Maori as a living language.

"The usage of Google services in Maori shows that there are many reasons to be optimistic about the future of New Zealand's beautiful indigenous language - and far from technology threatening it, technology is helping it."

If you speak Maori and want to help out, visit the Maori Google Translate page.

Maori Language Week starts today and runs until Sunday.

3 News

source: newshub archive