University of Hawaii Maui College faculty member Keola Donaghy collaborated with Microsoft to make its new Windows 8 operating system Hawaiian-language friendly.
The operating system launched in late October includes a Hawaiian keyboard layout, fit with the language's two diacritical markings - kahako, or macrons, and 'okina, or glottal stops. The operating system also provides support for other functions, such as displaying weeks and months in Hawaiian.
"We're getting very close to the day that Hawaiian speakers will be able to take for granted the fact that they can simply type in Hawaiian when they buy a new computer, tablet or smartphone without installing special software," said Donaghy, who works in the music department at the college.
University of Hawaii Maui College music instructor Keola Donaghy shows the recently released Windows 8 operating system with an internal Hawaiian-language keyboard on his computer. The keyboard includes the ‘okina and kahako, diacritical marks used in the Hawaiian language.
Microsoft first approached Donaghy at a conference hosted by the Indigenous Language Institute three years ago.
"I gave a presentation on the lexicon of the Hawaiian language, and how we developed new words," said Donaghy. "Luckily, two women from Microsoft were there and interested in my work."
Since then, Donaghy has spent the past couple of years telecommuting with program engineers at Microsoft's Local Languages Program.
Donaghy emailed the engineers the layout of the Hawaiian keyboard, which designated the keys for the kahako and 'okina. He also translated Hawaiian texts engineers sent his way.
In a news release, Anthony Salcito, vice president of Worldwide Education for Microsoft, expressed his support for native languages and their preservation.
"Providing technology support in a native language is critical to helping people access the tools they need to create better economic opportunities," said Salcito. "Language preservation and support also helps preserve cultural identities for the next generation of learners."
Keiki Kawai'ae'a, who will be the director of the Ka Haka 'Ula O Ke'elikolani College of Hawaiian Language at the University of Hawaii at Hilo in January, has worked with Donaghy for almost two decades and said technology is a key component in gaining visibility for the Hawaiian language.
"When I arrived in Hilo, I brought Keola in and his job was to work on a new technology initiative to help support the Hawaiian language," said Kawai'ae'a, who was born and raised on Maui.
Over the past 20 years, Donaghy has made major steps toward the revitalization of the Hawaiian language. His achievements include:
* Creating one of the first bulletin board systems for an indigenous language in 1994 with Kawai'ae'a and another colleague. This system allowed users to upload and download software for Hawaiian language purposes.
* Working with Apple in 2002 to create an internal Hawaiian keyboard for its OS 10.2 operating system. This endeavor provided much of the foundation and legwork for the Windows 8 system.
* Enabled the first Native American language through the "Google in Your Language" program, which allows users to display their search tips in Hawaiian. He spent more than 100 hours translating search terms that appear on Google into Hawaiian in 2009.
Kawai'ae'a said these actions are part of an ongoing movement to energize the language, which starts with children.
"Our children need to learn how to read and write the language the way it was traditionally written," said Kawai'ae'a, who has served as the Hawaiian immersion teacher at Paia School. "Children can now use the computer to communicate in Hawaiian. . . . We appreciate all the work that Keola has done."
Kawai'ae'a said less than 2 percent of the state of Hawaii speaks its native language, and it only took one generation to get there.
"It takes at least three generations to take a language out of its endangered state and we're in the second," said Kawai'ae'a. "It's Hawaii's responsibility to preserve the language, and there's a lot of work and technology which can support it. But the only way a language can survive is if it's functional."
* Chris Sugidono can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.