For ten years Microsoft has been collaborating with Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori (the Māori Language Commission) and language experts to bring free te reo Māori interfaces to the technology that millions of Kiwis use every day.
In preparation for Māori Language Week 2013, Microsoft has announced today that the choice to use te reo Māori in Windows 8, Office 2013, Outlook.com, and Internet Explorer 10 is available now.
“We are thrilled to continue our support for te reo Māori,” says Paul Muckleston, Managing Director of Microsoft New Zealand Limited. “We are grateful for the hard work that so many people have done to make it possible to weave this taonga into the very latest of tablet, smartphone, PC, and cloud technologies.”
“We are also announcing our support for a new initiative that can bring free te reo Māori translations to the Internet with the Microsoft Translator Hub in the future,” says Muckleston.
“Microsoft’s ongoing commitment to te reo Māori deserves to be celebrated,” says Glenis Philip-Barbara, Chief Executive of Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori. “Microsoft has worked with translators to develop and polish top notch translations for more than 100,000 phrases and they provide a truly immersive experience. It is exciting to see our language so comprehensively supported in the Microsoft products that are widely used in our community.”
Philip-Barbara adds that support for te reo Māori in technology is essential for investing in tamariki by offering an interface from their school years. This allows youth to be immersed in te reo for life.
New support for te reo Māori in Microsoft products includes the following.
- In Windows 8, te reo Māori can be applied to the desktop and the modern touch-friendly interface, as well as the included apps for Mail, Calendar, People, Weather, Maps, Games, Music, Finance, News, Defender (the included free anti-virus software) and more.
- The new Internet Explorer 10 web browser for Windows 7 and Windows 8 can also be used with te reo Māori menus and options.
- With Office 2013, te reo Māori can be applied to Outlook 2013, Word 2013, Excel 2013, PowerPoint 2013, and OneNote 2013. The free online email service Outlook.com also has the option to be used in te reo Māori.
- Windows Phone 8 now offers te reo Māori support for the Regional Settings (this will display things like the time and date in te reo Māori).
All of these te reo Māori options are available today at no extra cost, through a simple change in the Language Settings (Windows 8 and Internet Explorer 10, Outlook.com, and Windows Phone 8), or with a free download (Office 2013 from https://aka.ms/Office2013inTeReo). You can see screenshots of how it looks once the language packs are installed here: http://sdrv.ms/14aZVLE
Previous versions of Windows and Office are also supported.
Anne Taylor, Customer Marketing Manager at Microsoft New Zealand Limited, has been a champion of te reo Māori within Microsoft from the outset. She says the work involved in the development of this Māori language support would not have been possible without many people working towards a common goal. Individual contributors include Haami Piripi, Huhana Rokx, Sharon Armstrong, Wiha Raki-Hawea, Lee Smith, Te Haumihiata Mason, Te Taka Keegan, Tom Roa, Roger Lewis, Wareko Te Āngina, Eva Mahara, Hohepa MacDougall, John Moorfield, and Dave Moskovitz.
Taylor says, “On behalf of Microsoft, I would like to thank everyone who has helped to make te reo come to life in a technological context, and Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori for their encouragement and recognition of the work that has been done.”
“We encourage everyone to try these te reo Māori interfaces for themselves,” says Anne. “Our vision is that everyone can immerse themselves in te reo Māori when they use our technology, to keep the language vibrant with the community leaders who know it well, and to revitalise and grow language use among children and learners.”
Waikato University Senior Lecturer in Computer Science, Dr Te Taka Keegan, has worked closely with Microsoft to develop the te reo Māori interfaces. He says there is a need for greater access to technology to facilitate the use of the language on an everyday basis.
Dr Keegan says, “Microsoft’s 10 years of work has laid a foundation for te reo Māori in the technology environment and highlighted how te reo Māori can be used in modern contexts.”
“The impact of Microsoft’s work is far reaching, giving future generations of Māori language speakers the expectation that their computing and technology can, and more importantly should, be available in te reo Māori.”
Building on this work, Microsoft New Zealand Limited announced today that it would support the establishment of a new charitable foundation for te reo Māori language experts and advocates to bring free te reo Māori translations to the Internet.
“Microsoft has been researching technology that allows computers to learn how to translate from one language to another for more than a decade,” says Muckleston. “Microsoft technology powers the free translation tool at www.bing.com/translator/ that can translate any text or website, the translations that people see in Facebook and various consumer apps, and in software that is used by professional translators to help them be more productive.”
Microsoft’s translation service has the potential to make translations to and from te reo Māori much more accessible to anyone through the Internet, says Pare Keiha, Dean of Te Ara Poutama, Pro-Vice Chancellor Māori at AUT University. “Being part of the process of building a new translation service for te reo Māori will be a wonderful experience for language students.”
He is also excited about the future possibilities. “If we can bring this ambitious project to fruition over the coming years, professional translators will be able to use the service in their work,” says Keiha. “It will save a lot of time, so that more things can be translated into te reo Māori. And anyone will be able to tap into the service to get the gist of what is being said in te reo. Microsoft is taking a neutral approach so there is no restriction on which smart devices can be used to access the service.”
“Microsoft has been consulting with te reo Māori experts over the last year about the concept of bringing this instant translation technology to everyone. Based on the words of support and encouragement we have received, we would like to work with Māori on this voyage to translation support in these tools for te reo Māori,” says Muckleston. “This won’t happen overnight, and it will take a lot of hard work by Microsoft and many volunteers – but we think it is important to start on this ambitious project now so that te reo Māori in the technological environment can be used more widely in the future.”
The first step will be for the community to use a free tool called the Microsoft Translator Hub to immerse the computer learning technology in te reo Māori, so that the software can learn the vocabulary and grammar of the language. This requires a large collection of works that are available in te reo Māori and in English or another supported language.
Muckleston says, “Microsoft offers the Translator Hub as a free service for language enthusiasts and experts to chart their own pathways towards building sophisticated machine translation engines for their own use. It’s a self-service tool that allows people to include everyone in their community who can help to build the engine.”
“Most of the work will be done by enthusiasts and volunteers, and it will be important to recognise their work,” explains Muckleston. “Microsoft will also give the project a boost with an initial funding grant for a researcher to collect translated works and add them to the Translator Hub to get things underway.”
Based on discussions with te reo Māori experts, Microsoft is aware that the approach that will receive the widest support in New Zealand is for an independent charitable foundation, governed and controlled by Māori, to collect and hold the body of translated works so that it can be used not only for the Microsoft Translator Hub project, but also for other projects that will enrich the language in the future.
“We recognise that collecting these valuable translated works from community and Government stakeholders is something that needs to be handled responsibly,” says Muckleston. “The body of translated works that will be collected will be a cultural treasure in itself, and it is too valuable to be locked into any one company’s service. We understand that it needs to be readily available for other initiatives to study the language and improve access for the entire community.”
“Microsoft’s approach puts Māori firmly in control of the body of translated works, and the Microsoft Translator Hub project itself,” explains Evelyn Tobin MNZM, JP, and Director, Kōtare Enterprises Ltd. “This is important, because it means Māori own the process, and the critical decisions. I encourage everyone who is interested in revitalising te reo Māori to come forward and support this work.”
Leading New Zealand law firm Chapman Tripp has offered to help with the establishment work of the foundation on a pro bono basis.
“Our firm supports the enrichment of te reo Māori and we are excited to be part of this project,” says Justin Graham, Senior Associate at Chapman Tripp. “As someone who is learning te reo myself, I feel this is an important project for New Zealand, and I am delighted to be able to volunteer my time alongside people who are recognised as leaders in te reo.”
Language experts Evelyn Tobin, Pare Keiha, and Te Taka Keegan have been nominated as initial trustees for the foundation, and there is an open invitation for iwi nominees, language enthusiasts, and representatives of the Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori to participate.
The charitable foundation is due to be launched soon, which will open up this project to contributions from the public. If you are interested to find out more about the project, if you have feedback for us on the proposal, or if you would like to be part of it, please get in touch with us at TeReoMaori@microsoft.com.
To find out more about Microsoft’s commitment to languages please visit the Microsoft Local Language Program website at http://www.microsoft.com/LLP/. To find out more about Microsoft’s work on language technology please visit http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/projects/mt/.
You can link to this blog post through: https://aka.ms/ArohatiaTeReo2013
Article by Waldo Kuipers, Corporate Affairs Manager, Microsoft New Zealand Limited