Hika launches Māori language learning system with global application

27 February 2013

The new Hika Explorer – or Hika Torotoro – system will be launched at the Faculty of Education this Thursday 28 February. The new app provides instant access to translations of more than 54,000 common phrases between English and Māori, as well as a capacity for users to construct their own phrases. The Hika programme can be downloaded for use on any iOS hardware (iPad, iPhone) and any Android-driven mobile devices and is also available in a browser-based form for class or lecture room use.

Hika Explorer builds on the award winning Hika LITE App launched last year and was conceived by Sophie Tauwehe Tamati (Tuhoe, Ngati Maniapoto, Tuwharetoa) - a Senior Lecturer in Te Puna Wānanga. Tauwehe mainly teaches in the Bachelor or Education (Teaching) Huarahi Māori Specialisation at the Faculty of Education. She is excited about Hika Explorer as a new means of fostering interest in te reo by using modern technologies that can provide audio, visual and kinaesthetic (activity-based) support for learning on an anywhere, anytime basis as well as use in formal curriculum-based language learning programmes.

Dr Jenny Lee, Head of School of Te Puna Wānanga, is delighted to host the launch of this innovative te reo Māori product. “Hika assists with the advancement of te reo Māori in teaching and learning contexts and beyond,” she said. “We will look to include the new technology in our Huarahi Māori degree programme so that students will, in turn, be able to use this technology in their future classrooms with learners and their whānau.” The launch will be attended by Faculty of Education staff, school representatives and students, as well as corporate sponsors.

Hika Explorer has been five years in development, trialled at nine schools for two years, and tested and refined with assistance from more than 2,500 students, teachers, school principals, and senior academic staff at the faculty.

No government funding has been employed in the Hika development process. Funding has been provided by Hika Group shareholders who are educators, teachers, principals and lecturers and technical specialists, through loans and personal mortgages.

The core of Hika is a Rapid Language Learning (RRL) system evolved from multi-coloured English and Māori text cards that Sophie and her cousin Liz used to teach te reo.

Information technology has been developed to manage English to Māori and Māori to English translation of words and phrases almost instantly so users can see, hear, learn and use language in grammatically correct and dialect-specific forms.
Hika Explorer also has the capacity to support the building of original phrases and transmission via TXT and e-mail. The ability to TXT and email is rapidly socialising the language. The Rapid Language Learning system has been patented and registered in 12 countries.

The early version Hika LITE, offering 1,000 phrases free-of-charge, was launched in partnership with Vodafone New Zealand eight months ago and now has 60,000 users. Its user community is growing at a rate of 2,000 a month and the Hika Group was recognised as an industry leader with an edge over other internet application providers at the Australia New Zealand Internet Awards last October. In granting Hika Group the diversity award, the judges commented that “their products encourage and support expressions of cultural diversity and identity through the promotion of multilingualism and indigenous cultures using mobile touch devices and online systems.”

While Hika’s primary focus is on te reo Māori, the system has the capability to provide similar support for the learning and use of other languages. An English-Mandarin system is currently under development along with several other language sets.

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