Te reo Māori proponents are hailing a new translator app they say will bring the country's native language into the 21st century.

Microsoft today announced te reo Māori has been added to its Translator application, enabling instant translations of text from more than 60 languages into Māori, and vice versa.

The global tech giant has been working with New Zealand language experts on including te reo Māori in their platforms and software for more than 14 years, and the app is its latest development.

Microsoft New Zealand education lead Anne Taylor said they wanted to provide better access to Māori language and culture via the technology New Zealanders used every day.


So you want to learn te reo Māori? A fluent Pākehā shares his inspiring journey
Where to learn te reo Māori
Premium - The Kiwis committed to learning te reo Māori
Google's Best App of 2018 offers free Te Reo lessons

It would also help support the Government's goal of having one million New Zealanders speaking te reo by 2040.

"Te reo Māori is one of New Zealand's three official languages, and we want to encourage its use and make sure it is available in all of the technologies people are using."

They envisioned the app supporting everybody from learners, to basic speakers, to even those in full immersion.

"Speaking to teachers in full immersion units in schools, this service can be helpful when speaking and writing about contemporary topics, such as climate change, and means they can spend more time in the Māori medium rather than having to switch back to English."

Taylor said it wouldn't take the place of professional translators, but would give users a good starting point.

Microsoft New Zealand education lead Anne Taylor said the app service would help support the goal of one million Kiwis speaking te reo by 2040. Photo / Supplied
Microsoft New Zealand education lead Anne Taylor said the app service would help support the goal of one million Kiwis speaking te reo by 2040. Photo / Supplied

Auckland University of Technology Pro-Vice Chancellor Māori Pare Keiha worked with Microsoft on the project, and with his students and staff developed a corpus of about 500,000 translations.

The application then used Microsoft's artificial intelligence technology to itself "learn" more te reo Māori as it was used, and grow and change with the language, allowing the accuracy of the translations to be continually updated and refined.


Keiha said this would help to revitalise te reo Māori and bring it into the 21st century.

"Like English, or French, or Spanish, te reo Māori is originally from the stone age, but just like the rest it is capable of being revitalised, and made more relevant to our communities.

"This is an extraordinary opportunity for all of us."

Keiha said as te reo Māori continued its revitalisation journey, every New Zealander would at some point find the app useful.

"Every New Zealander should have access to our first language, history and culture, and partnering with Microsoft to whakamana (empower) our language, using this technology like many major languages in the world will give own children a sense it has a place in the 21st century."

Microsoft president Brad Smith said the company was "proud" to support te reo Māori through including it in the app.

"When the world loses a language, we all lose an important piece of human history, and a community loses its ability to connect and communicate with its past.

"While it's our business to advance technology, we also believe we have a responsibility to make sure technology respects and even helps protect the world's timeless values."