Hawaiian Support in iOS 5

Last week Apple released iOS 5, the latest version of their operating system for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. There has always been some support for Hawaiian language in iOS. Since it shares some core software with OS X, and OS X has supported Hawaiian since 2002, iOS has had the ability to display the ‘okina and kahakō since it first shipped, and we were delighted when some of our translated strings showed up in that first version as well. With version 3, iOS has been able to generate the ʻokina and kahakō by pressing and holding the vowels and selecting those characters from a list of vowel and diacritic combinations that pops up. iOS 5 takes this support to a while new level.

There is now a Hawaiian keyboard in the OS. Why is this significant, since you could previously generate the ‘okina and kahakō? First, it is a boon for iPad owners who like to use external keyboards. Previously, there was no way to type the ‘okina or kahakō easily using an external keyboard. Now, if you select the Hawaiian keyboard in the iOS general preferences, you type the ‘okina and kahakō in the same way that you type them on Mac OS X – by simply typing the apostrophe for the ʻokina, and holding down the option key while you type the kahakō.

Another feature on the new soft keyboard (the one that displays itself on the screen), is that there is a new way to type the ʻokina. While you can still long-hold the vowels and select the vowel-‘okina from the list that pops up. Now, there is also a stand-alone kahakō on the right side, next to the ‘okina. If you type a vowel and then press this key, it will insert the kahakō over that vowel. This is cool as this is how you would spell out the vowel combination ‘ā-kō, ‘ē-kō, ī-kō, etc. I’m sure those that use the soft keyboard exclusively and want to type in Hawaiian will love it. Also note that the return key has “Kāho‘i” on it. I love it.

The final new feature is that there is now spell-checking for Hawaiian, based on an extensive word list that we provided to Apple. It’s not perfect, but none are. The spell-check and suggestions are based largely on the letters that surround the intended vowel. In the example shown on this graphic, the “g” that is mistakenly typed is next to the letter “h” on the keyboard, so it works well. One kind of typo it does not seem to catch is if you fail to type a word-initial ‘okina, and quite often inside the word as well. If you spell ‘ōlelo as olelo, it will not suggest ‘okina as a potential correct spelling. Hopefully this kind of situation can be addressed in future updates, but it’s still a huge improvement.

Mahalo again to Apple for their support of ka ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i.

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