Social media rejuvenates endangered language

Friday November 21, 2014 Written by Published in Culture
Anonga Tisam (centre) with mentors and donors of the Cook Islands Maori database.  14112015 Anonga Tisam (centre) with mentors and donors of the Cook Islands Maori database. 14112015

Concern that the Cook Islands Maori language will soon be lost has sparked a project to rejuvenate the language through social media and beyond.

Last year, Anonga Tisam was awarded a grant to develop a database of Cook Islands Maori words as a means to rejuvenate interest in the Cook Islands Maori Language among youth and others who are not currently fluent speakers.

The award was one of 13 awards given internationally by ISIFAsia (Information Society Innovation Fund) which is a subsidiary of APNIC (Asia Pacific Network Information Centre) based in Australia. 

Together with Development Coordination Division Gender Project Coordinator Maureen Hilyard they have established a Facebook page - Cook Islands Maori Language - and a website in order to promote its use.   

“Ultimately we would like to create a mobile application and a set of educational resources in order to be able to make more effective use of this tool in schools and in the wider community – local, regional and internationally,” she said. 

Three of the original ISIF grant recipients were then selected to receive specialist mentoring to complete their projects and to provide specialist training in Utilisation-Focused Evaluation and Research Communication. 

The Cook Islands Maori Language Database was one of these recipients. 

This week, Tisam and Hilyard have been working with two international mentors who are providing them with face-to-face training of this new evaluative process.

The names of the evaluators are Sonal Zaveri (from Mumbai, India) and Vira Ramelan (from Jakarta, Indonesia).

Cook Islands Maori and its various dialects are listed on UNESCO’s endangered languages list and there is concern that the language will not survive into the 21st century.

The aim of the project is to develop an online resource tool that is easily accessible to Cook Islanders and those interested in Cook Islands languages. 

The online resource will be a database containing Cook Islands Maori words, their English translations with example usage in a sentence in both English and Maori.

The database will be developed as a platform so that other applications can be built on top of it and will include the development of an android and IOS application that leverages the platform for mobile and tablet users via a basic API.

The project argues language preservation is important to the sustainability of a country’s culture and its traditions. 

Culture, language and heritage have value in their own right and contribute to a common sense of nationhood and national development. 

Culture can act as a catalyst for economic growth, environmental protection, a sense of self-worth, belonging, pride and achievement. 

A project proposal has been submitted to the Cook Islands Government via New Zealand High Commission for consideration to scale up the project.

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