Motorola has introduced te ao Māori language capabilities to its smartphones as part of its recent partnership with UNESCO, alongside the Lenovo Foundation’s mission to digitise and revitalise endangered languages over the next decade.

The initiative enables customers to experience the Māori language on handsets Motorola has launched in 2023 and follows the launch of Kangri and Kuvi (from India), Cherokee, Kaingang (spoken in Southern Brazil) and Nheengatu (spoken in the Amazon) in recent years.

Motorola anticipates the introduction of te ao Māori language capabilities having a considerable impact on language revitalisation, especially as Māori is considered endangered by UNESCO, according to Motorola head of greater Asia Pacific, Kurt Bonnici.

“By promoting the written form of the language, Motorola is encouraging wider, everyday use of Māori. With over 180,000 native Māori speakers in New Zealand (or approx. 4% of the population) and over 14, speakers in Australia (approx. 0.05% of the population), there is the potential to benefit a large indigenous community,” he told Appliance Retailer.

“While some smartphones already support inputting and displaying Māori language characters, Motorola is going one step further to provide fully localised user interface in Māori language. That means when a Māori user sets up their device, they can select the Māori language at the startup and experience an enhanced user interface.”

Motorola was the first OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) to fully support an indigenous endangered language from the Amazon (Nheengatu) and the first to fully localise the mobile phone user interface in the indigenous languages, Cherokee, Kaingang and Kangri.

“These are all testaments to how Motorola is closing the gap in digitally inclusive technology and inspiring more action towards the revitalisation of indigenous languages,” Bonnici said.

“This year, we have taken further steps to support the Indigenous communities in New Zealand. Through this project, we are making further progress toward a mobile experience that embraces all our users and contributes to the promotion of indigenous languages and culture. To multiply our impact, Motorola has also shared over 700,000 translated indigenous words through site so other OEMs and companies can integrate these endangered languages in their interfaces.”

The company’s goal is to empower the next generation to preserve the unique histories and cultures of indigenous languages. By expanding language capabilities, Motorola is encouraging and providing them with the opportunity to continue using their native language in new digital formats.

“As we take further steps to support the digitalisation of endangered indigenous languages, our top priority is to ensure that we are fully attuned to the needs of the communities we collaborate with. We will also continue to share our learnings, technical processes and language data to inspire more actions towards revitalisation,” Bonnici said.

“Having taken the lead in promoting the digital inclusion of endangered indigenous languages in early 2021, Motorola will continue to show commitment to celebrating the International Decade of Indigenous Languages (2022-2032) that was announced by UNESCO in Paris, December 2022.”