Google launches Woolaroo, a new experiment to support at-risk languages

Woolaroo builds on technology first used in Kupu, the te reo Māori app.
Woolaroo builds on technology first used in Kupu, the te reo Māori app. Photo credit: Supplied

Innovative technology used in the development of Kupu, an app to support the revitalisation of te reo Māori, is now being used to support even more native languages.

Woolaroo, a Google Arts & Culture experiment, has been launched allowing more language communities to preserve and expand their language word lists and add audio recordings to help with pronunciation.

As well as te reo, 10 global languages are supported in total, including Louisiana Creole, Sicilian, Rapa Nui and Yiddish.

The Te Murumāra Foundation, whose goal is to protect and maintain the integrity of Māori language resources, was integral to the development of the Kupu app, through the sharing of the Te Aka Māori Dictionary. Dr Tania Ka’ai, the foundation's Chair, was closely involved in the development of Woolaroo.

"This work is incredibly important for showcasing how digital platforms can make te reo and other endangered languages more accessible and interactive for both Kiwis and people all over the world," she said.

"At Te Murumāra Foundation we’re continuing to evolve and develop in our commitment to sharing te reo Māori resources, and this next evolution of the technology and scale of reach is truly exciting for indigenous languages all over the world."

Woolaroo was co-developed by RUSH, a digital product studio in Aotearoa. 

Chris Rollings, Executive Producer of Partner Innovation APAC at Google said he hopes people will enjoy learning and interacting with languages that are new to them while learning of shared heritages.

"All of the languages on Woolaroo are a crucial aspect of a community’s cultural heritage. If you, your grandparents or people in your community speak any of these languages – even if just a few words – by giving it a go, you can help to expand the growing coverage of Woolaroo," he said.