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AUT app puts te reo at users’ fingertips

AUT’s National Maori Language Institute Te Ipukarea is drawing together a set of learning resources previously only available as textbooks and study guides in hard copy and online and releasing them as a tablet app series.

To use the Te Whanake app series on an iPad or Android tablet, users download a container app, then buy access to each programme level.

The levels take material from the textbook and guides and add animations, podcasts, listening and speaking exercises.

“These apps present a structured programme taking the learner from beginner through to the advanced stages of the language,” says Dr Dean Mahuta, associate director at Te Ipukarea. “This is a digital series that will work for independent learners but it’s also a great resource for teachers and educators.”

The app will remove barriers to making te reo part of everyday life, says Mahuta. Recently-released stats show a resurgence in the use of the language in the past decade, he adds.

The Te Kupenga survey by Statistics New Zealand showed that in 2013 an estimated 257,500 (55 percent) of Maori aged 15-plus self-reported an ability to speak te reo Maori, defined as more than a few words or phrases of the language. That compared with the results of the Te Puni Kokiri survey on the health of Maori language in 2001, which found 153,500 (42 percent) of Maori adults reported some ability to speak te reo Maori.

“We need to foster the growth of the language and build on these gains to help more people connect with the language,” Mahuta says. “The survey results capture the use of the language by adult Maori, but until we hear the language being used in our everyday tasks, at the bank or at the supermarket checkout counter, the Maori language still has a long way to go.”

The Te Whanake series has been developed over several years since around 1985. It includes four textbooks, three study guides, recorded audio and video listening exercises, speaking exercises, three teacher’s manuals and a Maori dictionary.

In 2006 Te Whanake launched online with a Maori dictionary, animations with self-directed learning material and exercises. There is also a Maori language television programme and forums for learners to share ideas. The websites are free and bilingual.

The online dictionary is already available as an app for iPhones, iPads and Android phones and tablets. 

Amanda Sachtleben is an Auckland writer and social media type, who's also Idealog's former tech editor and business journalist.

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