Rongo app eases the whakamā for beginners learning te reo Māori

By Stefan Dimitrof

Tai Tokerau's Te Hiku Media has launched an app called ‘Rongo’ to support te reo learners with their pronunciation.

The app has been designed to get more people to speak te reo Māori without feeling whakamā about working on the pronunciation.

Te Hiku Media chief operating officer Suzane Duncan said what inspired the company to make the app was the huge desire from people wanting to learn te reo Māori and to speak it properly.

'Great grasp of kupu'

“There are barriers for people actually speaking the language. They have a great grasp of kupu and grammar structure but, actually getting the words out of their mouths, there are a few barriers to that.

“One of the barriers is getting the word wrong, not wanting to offend, not wanting to embarrass themselves.”

Duncan said in developing Rongo they wanted to break through those barriers.

Rongo uses machine learning and AI, which is applied across 24 levels of difficulty, starting with the basics. Once people start learning, it will ask them to say a sentence. Once the person has said the sentence the AI will examine the performance and give feedback if needed.

'Teach people'

“The foundation of it is listening and repeating and the AI does all the tricky stuff in the background. At the end of your lesson, it will tell you how well you’ve done and tells you what words you might need more practice on.

“Rongo is more about providing the foundation with the sound, all the sounds you’ll hear right across all regional variations and its iwi and hapū and their mātanga reo [language skills] that is best placed to deliver and teach people regional variation in dialect."

Currently, Rongo is only found on the Apple app store. With the app being fully developed by Te Hiku Media it had to decide on develop on a single architecture, which is why the app is only on Apple.

Duncan said that Te Hiku will start on the Android version of the app but said: “It’s not as simple as copy and paste.”