Thursday, August 27, 2009

Google Goes Hawaiian

If you've always dreamed of using Google's website in Hawaiian, here's your chance.

Actually Hawaiian is one of 125 "interface languages" now supported by Google. But aside from being one of the curiosities of the web, it's also being viewed as another boost for Hawaiian culture. Native Hawaiians have struggled for years to find ways to make Hawaiian language and culture relevant to modern-day Hawaiians. For more than a century traditional Hawaiian culture was actively oppressed by the United States government, laws banning the teaching of the Hawaiian language in schools were only overturned in the 1980s. This has all left many Hawaiians feeling disconnected from their native culture and led the United Nations to list Hawaiian as a "critically endangered" language.

In recent years though things have improved, with schools on the islands launching Hawaiian language and culture courses, and even a university-level degree program in Hawaiian Studies. Now Google has put its weight behind the Hawaiian language. Users can use their site and receive search results in Hawaiian. Beyond translating the site into Hawaiian, another challenge was to come up with words to describe terms like "surfing the web" in a language that pre-dates the era of modern technology.
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