Google Adds Hawaiian Language

Google Hawaiian

For many, Google and its search engine is quickly becoming the world’s central clearinghouse for information, and its web interface supports over a hundred different languages. Now, thanks to the efforts of Keola Donaghy at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, you can now use Google in Hawaiian.

Keola, who teaches at the Ka Haka ‘Ula O Ke‘elikōlani College of Hawaiian Language, volunteered over a hundred hours of his time to translate over 2,000 individual phrases and elements of Google’s interface. The switch was thrown just this week, making the Hawaiian interface available to the world.

Keola DonaghyI’ve known Keola and admired his work for well over a decade. We go back to the days of USENET and alt.culture.hawaii. I’ve since enjoyed connecting with him as a fellow blogger and podcaster. But wouldn’t you know it, we finally met in person for the first time thanks to Twitter, at the first-ever Hilo tweetup in December.

He just got back to Hilo after a four-day whirlwind tour in Honolulu, but was still happy to pass along more information. Below is the full-text of a freshly-updated media advisory on Google’s new Hawaiian interface… a story which CNN is apparently preparing to cover!

For Immediate Release

Speakers of Hawaiian can now “Google” all of the knowledge found on the world-wide web ma ka ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i – in the Hawaiian language. Ka Haka ‘Ula O Ke‘elikōlani College of Hawaiian Language at the University of Hilo has announced the release of a Hawaiian language interface for Google, the world’s most popular Internet search engine.

The translation project began in 2008 under the “Google In Your Language” (GIYL) program which encourages advocates of minority and indigenous languages to translate several of Google’s products into their own languages. The translation was completed by Assistant Professor Keola Donaghy of Ka Haka ‘Ula O Ke‘elikōlani. “We had attempted to communicate with Google regarding our desire for a Hawaiian interface for several years, ” Donaghy stated. “The ‘Google In Your Language’ program was dormant for a while, but came back to life again late last year.”

The staff of Ka Haka ‘Ula O Ke‘elikōlani and its Hale Kuamo‘o Hawaiian Language Center have been the source of many technology innovations which have benefited speakers of Hawaiian, such as the translation of Netscape’s Navigator web browser into Hawaiian in 1998, the inclusion of a Hawaiian language keyboard and other Hawaiian language resources in Macintosh OS X in 2002, and they continue to work with technology vendors to strengthen the ability of Hawaiian speakers to use the language with these technologies. “The addition of a Hawaiian language interface for Google is a tremendous development for Hawaiian speakers,” stated Dr. Kalena Silva, director of Ka Haka Ê»Ula O Ke‘elikōlani. “Google is the most heavily-used search engine on the Internet, and from both a practical and a symbolic standpoint, this interface puts Hawaiian on par with the many other languages that Google currently supports.”

This development will Hawaiian language speakers to choose the Hawaiian language interface and see all of Google’s normal commands and navigational text in Hawaiian. It does not translate the results or the web pages found by Google into Hawaiian – it simply allows the user to navigate through the site and conduct searches through Hawaiian. Hawaiian language speakers do not need to install any software on their computers to enable the Hawaiian interface; they simply need to select Hawaiian in their language preferences on Google.

To select the Hawaiian interface, users simply go to the Google “Language Tools” link on the main Google search page, and select “Hawaiian” from the list displayled. The Hawaiian language interface is automatically diplayed to users of Apple’s Safari web browser who have selected ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i as their first language preference in their Macintosh OS X “International” preferences.

Te Taka Keegan, a lecturer at the University of Waikato in Aotearoa (New Zealand), indigenous language activist and part-time employee of Google, acted as a liaison between Donaghy and the GILY engineers. “Having the ability to use the Google Web search interface in Hawaiian is a great step forward for the Hawaiian language” Keegan stated. ”Google has become the primary source of the world’s information and being able to source this information through the medium of the Hawaiian language indicates that the Hawaiian language has purpose and relevance in today’s information society. It will undoubtedly give a sense of identity, pride, and promise for Hawaiian children (and parents) who are able to search and retrieve information through their indigenous language.”

Questions and Answers

Why is this development significant?

Google is the most popular Internet search engine in the world. Many individuals, offices and schools make the Google homepage the first page that users see when they start their web browsers. Until now, Hawaiian speakers, including Hawaiian immersion students, have been required to utilize the English interface or that of another language provided by Google. Hawaiian speakers are now free to interact and use Google in the our language of choice.

Does this work on only Windows or Macintosh computers?

No, it works for all modern operating systems and browsers. Individuals with very old computers running Macintosh OS 9 or Windows 98 may not see the Hawaiian diacritics properly, but almost all newer machines should see the Hawaiian language properly.

Will Hawaiian speakers need to install any special software in order to use the Google Hawaiian interface?

No, you can use any web browser, as the translated interface is built into Google. You simply go to your Google language preferences and select Hawaiian to be your language choice.

Will Hawaiian speakers need to pay in order to use the Google Hawaiian interface?

No, like Google search engine in all languages, it is free.

Does this mean that Google can translate pages in English and other languages into Hawaiian?

No. Google does provide that kind of functionality, known as machine translation, for some major European and Asian languages. However, native speakers of those languages will tell you that the translations are fairly crude and generally not what you would hear from native speakers. While machine translation into Hawaiian may be possible some day, we are waiting for the technology to improve.

How many other languages can Google be searched in?

The Google languages pages currently approximately lists 100 languages, including most major and many minority and indigenous languages. It also includes humorous translations such as Elmer Fudd, Klingon, Hacker and Pirate. The only other Polynesian language interfaces available are for Māori, the native language of Aotearoa (New Zealand) and Tongan. No translations have been completed in any native American language, though some are currently being translated.

How do I use the Hawaiian interface on Google?

Once Google has deployed the Hawaiian web interface, you can go to the main Google search page ( and click on a link located to the right of the search field, entitled “Language Options”. Click on that link and you will see a list of the language that Google currently supports. Simply click on the link that says “Hawaiian” and you will set see the Hawaiian interface.

4 Responses

  1. Vern says:

    Hawaiian is such an amazing language… finally!

  2. Kris says:

    Cool, great find and a nice intro. Now just waiting for Rosetta Stone to come out with Hawaiian version of their software, too.

    I agree with Vern, that the Hawaiian language is so beautiful. The music, chants, and every where else I hear the accents and proper pronunciations of the language still gives me chills from time to time. It’s like connecting back in time hundreds of years ago.

  1. August 20, 2009

    […] Full story here. […]

  2. August 28, 2009

    […] Well, I don’t know what half the labels mean though hovering over them with the mouse to reveal the destination links helps. My lousy grasp of Hawaiian aside, it’s still freaky cool that Google now speaks Hawaiian! Ryan Ozawa’s indespensible Hawaii Blog has the full story, here. […]

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