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New app seeks to fill gap in Maori language resources

06 Apr 17

After noticing a growing gap in te reo Māori resources, app developer James Porter (Te Atiawa, Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Kahu) started a project with hopes to help revitalise the language digitally.

Along with his partner, Veronica Tawhai (Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Uepohatu) and fellow programmer Alan Nasario (Rarotonga, Rotuma), Porter has spent two years developing Pāpapa, the new line of apps that seeks to fill this gap.

With most te reo mobile apps targeting fluent speakers and older children, Pāpapa seeks to build the introductory foundations of te reo Māori into young and beginner learners.

Porter says there are many potential speakers being kept from learning, by barriers such as distance and a loss for where to start.

“Many New Zealand families here and overseas want to learn some te reo Māori especially for use with their young children, but don’t have any knowledge themselves and are unsure where to begin”

With Census statistics indicating a continuing decline in the language’s use, Porter hopes the apps will be a part of the solution, but has some reservations around the way apps usually operate.  

“Mobile apps are popular and highly accessible, but we believe it must be utilised in a way that nurtures and supports the special relationship between children and their caregivers, where language lives and can thrive”

Their line of apps hopes to be a more co-operative option, encouraging not only learning the words but understanding the importance of passing language from caregiver to child.

“What is needed are introductory-­level resources providing a fun way for kids and their caregivers -­ be it their parents, grandparents, other family members or people like their teachers -­ to learn together, focusing on basic vocabulary they can share about the everyday world around them.”

Pāpapa’s first free app is named “He aha tēnei? (What is this?)”, and features drag and drop games that will introduce 20 Māori words to caregivers and children every day.  

The app had its launch earlier this week in Palmerston North and is available from both Apple, and Google play stores. With over 3500 downloads already, Pāpapa’s vision to help revitalise the language could be right on track.

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