Hawaiian language revival

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Tue Mar 29 15:45:53 UTC 2005

>>From SBS (Special Broadcasting Service)


The Hawaiian language is experiencing a strong revival after appearing to
be fading out of usage over the last 20 years. Back in 1983, a survey
estimated only 1,500 people, mainly elderly, remained in Hawaii who could
speak the native tongue. However, mainly due to a change in education
policy in 1987, the language no longer dying out.

The introduction of public immersion schooling has marked a significant
turnaround for Hawaiian, with most of the languages 6,000 to 8,000
speakers aged under 30. Before, people would hear me speaking Hawaiian to
someone and ask what language I was speaking, said Leilani Basham,
Hawaiian language coordinator at the University of Hawaiis Manoa campus.

I dont get that anymore. Verlieann Leimomi Malina-Wright, the
vice-principal of one of the schools, boasts that Hawaii is the only
American state where an indigenous language has shown growth since the
2000 census. When public immersion schools were set up in the late 1980s,
there were just 16 students at two sites in Honolulu and Hilo.

We now have 19 sites, not including four public charter immersion schools,
said Keoni Inciong, the state education departments specialist for Hawaiis
language immersion programme. Instruction under the programme is in
Hawaiian from kindergarten to fourth grade, with English introduced in
fifth grade. So, when Nakoolani Warrington tells her third graders, E
heluhelu kakou, students know it is time to read together.

Ms Warrington is a teacher at the Ke Kula Kaipuni o Anuenue public
immersion school, where 350 young pupils are embracing a bilingual future
in the fiftieth state of the US. When we first started in 1987, the main
focus was on perpetuating the Hawaiian language, Mr Inciong said. Now we
have the equal goal of a quality education, with emphasis on culture,
traditions and values. The language is already being heard elsewhere.

Ceremonies will usually include a chant or prayer in Hawaiian, and a
Honolulu radio station has a daily Hawaiian newscast. The Honolulu
Star-Bulletin also publishes a column in Hawaiian on Sundays. Some MPs
have called for Hawaiian, which is recognised as an official language
alongside English, to be used on government signs and in government
documents. However, two bills on the matter have become stalled in


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