App to help keep Cook Islands languages alive

28 Oct, 2015
App to help keep Cook Islands languages alive
Professor Tania Ka'ai speaking at the launch of the CI Dictionary app.

Learning the basics of the Cook Islands languages has become easier with the development of the Cook Islands Dictionary app for smartphones and tablets.

Led by teams from Te Ipukarea, the National Māori Language Institute at Auckland University of Technology (AUT); the University of South Pacific’s (USP) Cook Islands Campus; the Cook Islands Ministry of Education; and ta’unga – elders and repositories of knowledge – from the various outer islands of the Cook Islands; the app – CI Dictionary – was developed as part of a language revitalisation and maintenance strategy to make the languages of the Cook Islands more accessible through digital devices.

AUT Professor of Māori Innovation and Development, and Director of Te Ipukarea, Tania Ka’ai says digital tools which promote language revitalisation help to build stronger island communities.

“Online dictionaries and related dictionary apps are important tools for both second language learners and fluent speakers of a language.”

“It increases access of these island languages to the various communities all around the world,” says Professor Ka’ai.

The CI Dictionary app contains an impressive total of 17,000 head words.

“As there is no restriction on size for online dictionaries, they can contain much more information than a hard copy print dictionary,” says Professor Ka’ai.

“Online dictionaries and related dictionary apps have the potential to contain all the information a user may need as it can be constantly upgraded in real time.”

Built by Vo2 Web Design in Hamilton, New Zealand, in consultation with Te Ipukarea at AUT, USP Cook Islands and the Ministry of Education, Cook Islands, the app allows users to search for dictionary entries, find out their definitions, along with the help of supporting media such as encyclopaedic information, sample sentences, illustrations, audio and video clips, as well as image files – diagrams, maps and illustrations – which provide an added benefit for visual learners especially.

“This journey of collaboration with USP, the Cook Islands Ministry of Education and ta’unga has provided AUT postgraduate students with invaluable experience in undertaking fieldwork in language documentation with local Cook Island repositories of knowledge,” says Professor Ka’ai.

The CI Dictionary app is available for free on the Google Play Store for Android devices, and on iTunes for Apple devices.

The CI Dictionary app was officially launched by the Honourable Prime Minister of the Cook Islands Henry Puna at USP in the Cook Islands last month, and was launched in New Zealand at AUT’s City Campus recently.