Press Release - Apple Support for the Hawaiian Language

August 24, Hilo - The latest version of the computer operating system for Apple Computer, Inc.'s Macintosh computer was released today. Macintosh OS 10.2, code-named "Jaguar," has been touted for several months as including the most significant improvements and new features since the release of OS X ("ten") in 2001. One small addition will go largely unnoticed by the rest of the world, but represents a huge break-through for advocates of the Hawaiian language - the inclusion of a Hawaiian keyboard layout in the operating system, and fonts (the software that displays letters, numbers, and punctuation marks) containing the diacritical marks used in the Hawaiian language. This development was made possible by the joint efforts of staff at the Hale Kuamo‘o Hawaiian Language Center and the Native Hawaiian Serving Institution (NSHI) program, both located at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo, and the ‘Aha Pūnana Leo, Inc., all of whom collaborated with programmers at Apple Computer for several months.

"Our Hawaiian language programs have depended on Macintosh computers for many years to develop curriculum, provide telecommnication support through Hawaiian, and teach computer literacy to our children," said Keiki Kawai‘ae‘a, director of Hale Kuamo‘o. "We're thrilled that Apple was the first major vendor to step up and provide this level of support for our language. While Hawaiian speakers represent a very small percentage of the computer-buying public, even in Hawaiʻi, Apple recognized the significance of our language and the need for this kind of support."

Language support for languages in computer operating systems and programs largely depends on the size of the market among speakers of the language. Major European and Asian languages are widely supported by software vendors, while speakers of native American, Polynesian, and other indigenous languages have had to depend on customized fonts and keyboards simply to be able to type the characters used in their languages. [ Screen shot of the Hawaiian keyboard layout ]

The new keyboard layout and fonts are implemented through a technology standard called Unicode. Unicode fonts include the characters needed to display a significant percentage of the world's written languages. Prior to Unicode, most computers shipped with fonts that only displayed characters used by major European languages, such as English, French, German, and Spanish. Even support for other major languages, such as Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and Hindi frequently required installation of special software. [ Screen shot of "TextEdit" with Hawaiian text ]

While the addition of the Hawaiian keyboard and characters to Mac OS X is significant, it does not address all of the challenges faced by advocates of the language. Not all programs that run on Mac OS X support the Unicode standard, not even Microsoft's popular "Office" suite of programs, which includes Word, Excel and PowerPoint. "Support for Unicode is growing, and inevitable," says Keola Donaghy of the NHSI program at UH-Hilo. "We planted this seed many years ago, when we began empowering Hawaiian speakers who used computers. Some day soon people will be able to take for granted the fact that they can simply type in Hawaiian when they buy a new computer, without installing special software."

Hale Kuamo‘o also, announced several other significant Hawaiian language technology developments:

  • The first Hawaiian language class instructed via the Internet will begin on Monday, August 26, 2002. The class, developed collaboratively by the NHSI program and Ka Haka 'Ula O Ke'elikolani College of Hawaiian Language, will utilize interactive technologies that will enable students to not only hear prerecorded audio files, but record their assignments with their own voices and submit them for feedback and grading from their computers. It is a for-credit, University-level course that is based on the first-year Hawaiian language classes taught at the UH-Hilo. Approximately 15 students from the US mainland have registered for the class.
  • the release of a new keyboard program and improved fonts for the Windows operating system. Hale Kuamo‘o has provided these tools for free to the general public since 1995, however, the new keyboard program adds support for the latest versions of the Windows operating system - Windows 2000 and XP - and the new fonts have a greatly approved appearance on the computer monitor.
  • the availability of a plugin for webservers that enables them to display the Hawaiian language properly on the World-Wide Web. This software, called Fairy, is commercially available from 2em Solutions, a developer in Sweden. Hale Kuamo‘o and NHSI personnel provided guidance to the developer to assure that this product would properly display the ‘okina and kahakō.
  • long-standing problems which have prevented the proper display of Hawaiian in Netscape browser on the Macintosh is being addressed by Netscape engineers, and will be fixed in a future release of the Nestscape and Mozilla browsers. Again, correspondence and feedback by Hale Kuamo‘o and NHSI personnel to Netscape engineers identified and confirmed the problems.

For additional information contact:

Keola Donaghy
Hawaiian Language Curriculum and Technology Coordinator
Native Hawaiian Serving Institution Program
University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo
Voice: (808) 974-7339
FAX: (808) 974-7686