23 Sep 2017

Te reo Google maps a step closer

10:01 am on 23 September 2017

New Zealanders have embraced a project to have the correct pronunciation of Māori place names spoken on Google Maps.

Kristin Te Wao, left, Chanelle Lucas.

Kristin Te Wao, left, Chanelle Lucas. Photo: RNZ / John Boynton

Say It Tika, a collaboration between Vodafone, Google and Te Taura Whiri O Te Reo Māori, is looking to correct the mispronunciation of Māori place names.

The campaign, which was launched by Vodafone during Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori, and an ad featuring Temuera Morrison has has 870,000 views and collected 13,000 Facebook shares.

Project lead Kirstin Te Wao said more than 54,000 New Zealanders have pinned 9000 cities, town and street names across the country - names they would like to hear pronounced correctly on Google Maps.

"They've been sort of coming together in local communities to drop pins on the places that are important to them to be updated."

Ms Te Wao said the data would be used by Te Taura Whiri I Te Reo Māori to better pronunciations.

The response to the project has been overwhelmingly positive, she said.

"I think it just tells you how passionate people are and how proud they are of te reo Māori... To have that recognised in a global platform is very important for the people of Aotearoa."

Chanelle Lucas is a fluent te reo Māori speaker and works at Vodafone.

Ms Lucas was part of the campaign and said she grew up in West Auckland hearing a lot of mispronounced Māori names.

Te reo Māori plays an important role engaging with overseas tourists as well, Ms Lucas said.

"For them to be able to come here, sit in their car, go on a nice trip during summer and to hear the way the names the way they're supposed to be pronounced - I think that would really resonate with them."

Donna Kahaki is another staff member who has noticed poor pronunciation over the years. She said place names like Ōtāhuhu and Manurewa being amongst the most butchered.

Ed Mika said staff often confused customers with incorrect pronunciation.

"They know the pronunciation so when we say 'oh you're from this place', they're like 'that's not how you say it.'"

The correctly pronounced place names are expected to be in place on mobile devices by the end of this year.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs