A desire to learn her native language is driving Koni Rairoa to create a language preservation tool. When Koni lived in the Cook Islands, the country of her birth, she admits learning the language wasn’t a priority. She’s in Auckland now with a family of her own, and as the years go by, her desire to learn Cook Island Maori continues to grow.
“When you’re younger, you take a lot of things for granted,” she says. “But as you get older, you want to start piecing things together, to gain an understanding of where you come from. I came to realize just how much language plays a part in that.”
Koni’s desire is shared by her friend Lillian Arp, whose background in Samoan media sparked their venture to preserve Oceanic languages. “Statistics tell us that fewer and fewer Samoans in New Zealand can speak our language,” Lillian says. “My family witnessed that decline in the 30 years we ran the Samoana newspaper.”
As a tribute to that paper, Lillian writes a Samoan-themed blog where most of her subscribers have asked for help to learn their own language. “That’s when I knew we had an important job to do, and the idea for TideTalk, a language-learning application, was born.”
She and Koni met the Pacific Business Trust through Launching Leaders, a faith-based leadership course, where’d they pitched their idea. The Trust was impressed and offered the team mentorship and connections to like-minded business people.
“The Trust has provided us with courses at no cost to us, including one facilitated by KPMG (partners with Pacific Business Trust),” says Koni. “It was a cool experience, very enlightening and informative.”
With Pacific Business Trust’s guidance, team TideTalk has learned a lot about the realities of starting a new business, but Koni and Lillian are even more committed and determined now to see their idea become a reality.
“We want to provide an intuitive piece of technology that empowers users to speak their language with confidence,” Koni says.
”At a personal level,” she adds, “this journey has helped me discover my passion. I can see it helping so many other Pacific people rediscover their language.”