Surge of Kiwis learning Te Reo online following COVID-19 lockdown

One of the positives to come from months of COVID-19 lockdown has been the upsurge of Kiwis learning Te Reo online.

Whether it's on educational websites, live forums or addictive games like apps, Te Reo is finding a new audience, eager to learn.

As part of our Because it Matters series for Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori, we look at the role technology is playing.

For four years the award-winning podcast Taringa has a taonga for anyone wanting to learn Te Reo. 

Founder Paraone Gloyne, who also created Mahuru Māori - where only Te Reo is spoken for the month of September - explains Taringa's success. 

"Te nuinga o ngā kōrero kei roto i te reo Ingarihi, i te mea, ko te whakaminenga i whāia rā e au i te timatanga, ko te hunga iti nei te mōhio. Nō reira, kia hoki au ki tāku i kī ai, he kuaha a Taringa ki te ao Māori. [The majority of the format is mostly spoken in English because in the beginning, the target audience knew very little. Taringa is a gateway to the Māori world.]"

In the past Tikanga Māori expectation meant learning Te Reo should be done "kanohi ki te kanohi" or face-to-face. Feel the language, learn the language. 

But Taringa co-host Lyndsay Snowden says overwhelming demand and the availability of new technology has changed that.

"It was only a matter of time from book, to radio, to TV, to podcast, to now, it's just a natural progression," he told Newshub. 

If you want to see where the future of Te Reo is going, you only need to look at DJ Rain 'Katanayagi' Mahina-Falanitule (Te Aitanga-a-Mahaki, Ngāti Tūwharetoa).

Encouraged by her Nan Katarina to become a fluent Te Reo speaker, Rain found her voice on the live streaming platform Twitch during lockdown and is spreading the language.

"I feel like people randomly find me but most of them are from New Zealand just because I promote it on my instagram, some are from America, some are from Australia, yeah they're really like from all over the world," she told Newshub. 

Multinational technology company Microsoft knows a thing or two about global reach - it's partnered with Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori to promote the use of the language.

Dan Te Whenua Walker, Microsoft's global co-chair of indigenous, says Māori are leading the world.

"A lot of indigenous cultures that I've found within Microsoft they've lost their language so the fact that we've got te reo Māori in our language hub and we've got te reo Māori integrated into our office suite that's a huge win, we were the first indigenous language to be integrated into the Microsoft tools," he said.

The use of neural learning artificial intelligence is building a resource for generations to come.

"I think it's a huge opportunity for us to embrace technology to further strengthen te reo Māori, but also for our young ones who are coming through who are digital natives to know that they can engage in technology in a way that they're comfortable with it means that it opens up more opportunities for te reo Māori, tikanga and knowing who they are for their Māori identity too."

The Microsoft Translator App is still in its infancy but the more it's used, the better it gets.