Mā te hangarau te oranga o te reo Māori e tautoko ai? Can technology support the long-term health of the Māori language?
Mato, P. J. (2018). Mā te hangarau te oranga o te reo Māori e tautoko ai? Can technology support the long-term health of the Māori language? (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/11921
Permanent Research Commons link: https://hdl.handle.net/10289/11921
Can contemporary technologies be used to support the ongoing health of an endangered language? Since the late twentieth century unprecedented and substantial social changes have been propelled by advances in contemporary technologies. Continuous connectivity harnessing digital communication, mass media and social networking has enabled instant diffusions of ideas, viewpoints and values. Unrestrained broadcasting and publishing by the general populace and the absence of the traditional media gatekeepers has been linked to the weakening of traditional cultural and linguistic ties as the private, more intimate oral domains inherent to minority indigenous cultures are being opened up to more public modes of consumption. Additionally, significant numbers of minority language speakers switch from the use of their own languages in digital environments to a language that is globally more recognisable. This type of digital language switching emulates the historical occurrence of language shift as minority language speakers opt to use a language that they perceive to be of more benefit to themselves and to their children. Ironically, language revitalisation initiatives are embracing the ubiquitous attributes of digital technology. A joint venture between the Microsoft Corporation and the University of Waikato resulted in Māori-language interfaces for Microsoft Office and Windows. These and similar interfaces for a range of other applications were investigated. The testing groups were largely unaware the translated interfaces existed and expressed pleasure and pride to see te reo Māori within the various technologies. Following engagement the feedback was less positive. New words, unfamiliar uses of words and poor translations were cited as significant difficulties. Ensuing navigation was often hesitant and uncertain. Were the translations unsuitable? Is te reo Māori unusable within these technologies? The high incidence of task completion suggests difficulties may have arisen from a previous competence with the technologies in another language - English in this case. Future initiatives would do well to consider that perceived difficulties might arise from factors other than the design of the interfaces themselves. Te reo Māori is being used on Twitter. Particular events significantly impacted the use of tweeting in te reo. During Māori Language Week the number of tweeters increased. During the Matatini Festival the volume of tweets increased. While creating an online Māori-language community, a range of strategies became necessary to maintain and prolong some conversations. At times, bilingual tweets extended faltering conversations. Sometimes forwarding tweets drew success. Furthermore, a significant number of people preferred to watch without engaging directly – perhaps a target area for future strategies. Te reo Māori is a viable option within various technologies as evidenced by the increasing use of the language on a range of contemporary platforms. Translated interfaces provide opportunities for language promotion and extensive language visibility. The development of an online language forum has shown that conversations in te reo Māori can be successfully fostered using social media. Understanding the differences between the static visibility of translated interfaces and the dynamic nature of online conversations can be a huge asset for language strategies once issues of awareness, perception and extended engagement are successfully addressed.
The University of Waikato
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