Media company aims to create Māori Siri

11:48 am on 8 March 2018

Many tamariki speak Māori at school, at home or on the marae but one iwi media organisation is determined to see them speak Māori on their devices too.

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Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Northland's Te Hiku Media are creating a te reo Māori version of the voice-activated Apple assistant Siri so people can ask for directions, search for things and interact more in te reo.

Technology assistant Keoni Mahelona said te reo needed to be seen in places that were relevant to young people.

"Young people, our mokos, rangatahi, are on Snapchat and Instagram, and they've got mobile devices, but these devices don't speak te reo Māori," she said.

"If we want our indigenous languages to have a place in the future they are going to need to be on these devices and on the platforms."

The Kōrero Māori project invites the public to record themselves reading sentences in te reo on Te Hiku Media's webpage.

The database will help to create a digital Māori language model so machines and services like Siri can recognise and understand the language.

More than 33 hours of recordings have already been received by more than 400 people.

At the last census, 150,000 people said they could talk about everyday things in te reo Māori.

Te Hiku Media manager Peter Lucas Jones said the language would struggle to survive in the future if it was not available digitally.

"If we ask our phones for the weather in Wellington in English we get a response, but if we were to speak to our phones in te reo Māori that is still something that needs to be developed.

"There is no future for te reo Māori if it is not part of the digital future of Aotearoa New Zealand."

The project would preserve and protect te reo Māori for future generations, he said.

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