National | Technology

New bilingual laptop keyboard allows for easier typing in te reo Māori

Some keyboards from tech company Lenovo now have te reo Māori vowels integrated onto the keys. Photo / Supplied

A new bilingual keyboard will make typing te reo Māori macrons even easier.

The keyboard was devised by laptop maker Lenovo; the country's Aotearoa/ NZ country manager Libby Macgregor says the idea was prompted by her eight-year-old son questioning why macrons weren't directly on the keys.

“Felix came home one day and asked me, ‘Mum, why can’t I find the keys on the keyboard to type in te reo Māori?’ It was then I realised we didn’t have the hardware to make this as easy as it should be,” Macgregor said.

Electronics in non-English speaking countries typically have custom keyboards for their dominant language but Macgregor says predominantly English-speaking populations often miss out on products with alternate characters, resulting in a digital divide for consumers.

The macron in te reo Māori vowels is typically achieved by holding the tilde key (~) at the top left-hand corner of computer keyboards, then typing a vowel.

On Macintosh computers and smartphones, the same thing can usually be achieved by pressing and holding the vowel key (the University of Otago has a guide on how to install a Māori keyboard by default).

Lenovo has a Product Diversity Office, which went on to create the te reo Māori keyboard, with the vowels physically labelled on the keyboard, according to Macgregor.

“Māori is a culture which stays alive predominantly through use of the language,” she said.

"Lenovo wants to contribute by enabling Aotearoa’s rangatahi and professional workforce to utilise te reo Māori with ease in their everyday lives, through the launch of this keyboard."

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