There’s a new addition to the Google family; you may have noticed it, too – Google in Maori. It kinda snuck up on me. Not that I was specifically waiting for it but one day it was just there (July 23 to be exact). There was even a big bash in Rotorua to celebrate going live.
I knew it was in the offing. Some months ago the story did the rounds about the ongoing development of a Maori language version of the search engine in an effort to encourage more Maori to use the net. In May, it was announced that the translation had been finished and a few weeks later here we are Rapu-ing like crazy. If you’re interested in a bit of the history, it’s all there in the Google Maori Group (http://groups.google.com/group/google-maori).
Of course, Google is Google in any language, but it has been a lot of fun trying it out in Maori – not to mention educational.
‘Google Search’ is ‘Rapunga Google’ and ‘Search’ is simply ‘Rapu’. ‘I’m Feeling Lucky!’ is ‘Taku Waimarie Hoki!’. ‘Advanced Search’ is ‘Rapunga Whatutoto’ – and it also looks quite advanced in its use of language. But what’s really noticeable is how quickly it is to pick up words and phrases, most of which the vast majority of us will never have heard/seen before. I guess knowing what should be there helps a lot – like it’s obvious that ‘Panuku’ is the ‘Next’ button and ‘te tukutuku’ is ‘the web’.
I can see huge benefits to having the Maori version for learning the language.
Of course, most searches go through to English – or the language of choice of individual sites. However, Preferences (Manakohanga) and language tools (Utauta Reo) are fully translated. Likewise Images (Atahanga) and Groups directory (Whaiaronga). About Google (Mo Google) and Groups (Ropu) are still in English – but I guess you can’t have everything.
I’m not a language expert, but I was surprised to see the link through to the Maori site (which has the same URL, it’s just a mirror site that is chosen as your preferred view) is written as ‘maori’ without the macron. I’m assuming the Google people will put that right (providing it’s wrong, that is.)
How many other languages does Google use? Maori is the latest in quite a long line – there are 117 languages currently listed that can be used for the homepage (www.google.com/language_tools?hl=EN); 118 after you include Maori. Everything from Afrikaans to Zulu, Breton to Welsh, even Klingon and Twi (!). Some, though, look a bit suspect. There’s Elmer Fudd, Pig Latin, Hacker and Bork Bork Bork!, for example. (There are people with way too much time on their hands!)
The Maori version isn’t one of them. I’m not sure if anything has been linguistically created to fit the Google model, but that’s hardly the point. It will be a valuable addition to the language. In fact, it looks like everyone involved has done a fine job. Congratulations. It’s a significant boost for the language and, for those Te Reo-challenged people like me, it certainly makes it a fun and interesting challenge.