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Kumu ʻAlika
Hawaiian is a dead language
by Kumu ʻAlika - Thursday, June 26, 2008, 4:49 PM
Aloha e n? haum?na o Niuolahiki,

Pehea k?kou?

Read the two letters to the editor below and let us know what you think.  Is Hawaiian really a dead language?

Teach Hawaiian in every school

Don't sacrifice basics for a dead language

na Kumu ?Alika

Picture of Keoʻahunui Uale Warrington
Re: Hawaiian is a dead language
by Keoʻahunui Uale Warrington - Friday, June 27, 2008, 6:50 PM
A'ole! It is alive in you and those of you who continue to give the "ha" of our language to those like me; who want and need to learn it! I use the word "need" as it is my belief that learning the language is a way to connect with understanding more than just a language.  It is a way to learn more about ourselves as we learn  more about the ancient ones, those who came before us and of how intelligent these peoples were! This "knowing" will help to give our youth a source of strength, pride and community which is vital to helping them move forward and succeed in life. It is a responsibility for those of us at my age (50+ young) to continue  the work of learning and speaking; to share with all our young ones what we have learned. And then, to encourage them to get involved on their own. If they are living away from Hawaii to encourage participation in programs such as this one and if living "on island" to encourage learning their and to encourage the Hawaiian language addition to school curriculum. We must not accept the notion that learning Hawaiian as a language is a disservice to a student. We have already "been there, done that"! But the language did not die than; nor will it now or ever again!
Kumu ʻAlika
Re: Hawaiian is a dead language
by Kumu ʻAlika - Saturday, June 28, 2008, 10:38 PM
Well said, e Keo?ahunui!  Mahalo for sharing your mana?o.

Read Pila's pane here.

E ola ka ??lelo Hawai?i!

na Kumu ?Alika
Makahiki 2009, Molokai
Re: Hawaiian is a dead language
by Kimo Wyatt - Sunday, June 29, 2008, 4:15 PM

In Ron Kienitz

Picture of Likolani Tackett
Re: Hawaiian is a dead language
by Likolani Tackett - Monday, June 30, 2008, 5:48 AM

Over the years, school systems seem to have gone back and forth on requiring credits in foreign language for graduation or not.  I graduated during a time when foreign language was a requirement.  Actually, I looked forward to it.  However, we didn?t have much of a choice in languages at my school.  I was lucky.  My school offered a choice of 3. French, Spanish, and German.  I took German (not the usual everybody else took).  Once in High School, my family encouraged me to take Latin.  It was offered to juniors and seniors.  My family said it would help not only my English, but also other languages I might take in the future. It definitely helped in my later studies in University.

Studying any foreign language is not a "diverson", as Mr. Kienitz seems to think.  It requires considerable desire and commitment.  Although some students may not be interested in foreign language study in general, when they do study a language different from their own, they have the advantage of being exposed to another culture and way of thinking.  This can only be of help later in life.

I believe there is much to be learned from our kupuna.  They were wise and skilled in many areas, which are relevant and valuable to us today.  How are we to learn from our kupuna if we can not speak their language??  I feel there should always be the opportunity for students in Hawai?i to study ??lelo Hawai?i.  Whether they choose to study ??lelo Hawai?i or another language that would be of value in a future chosen profession, they should still have the opportunity to learn.
na Likolani

Picture of Terry Waltz
Re: Hawaiian is a dead language
by Terry Waltz - Monday, June 30, 2008, 4:03 PM
I'll bet I can predict a few facts about the author.

He probably took a language, most likely Spanish, in high school. He was taught in a very dry manner, in a class that emphasized memorization and translation. Being a typical high schooler, he wasn't terribly motivated to learn it, and he had probably never met anyone (or at least anyone he considered "desirable" to know) who spoke Spanish. He did not get a chance to do extensive reading or listening in Spanish *at his level*, which would have given him a feeling of success and encouraged him to continue in the language. Nothing in the class content had anything to do with his life, so he became bored with it. He managed to pass (perhaps) and then forgot about it for the rest of his life. Until, that is, it came time to argue that foreign language was worthless.

As a secondary-level language teacher and a former university language instructor, however, I strongly believe that steps need to be taken to make the instruction people receive in Hawaiian more communicative and more alive. People are very concerned that students "learn things right", and that's good. It has its value. But if an overemphasis on form devalues communication and human interaction using the language, all the form in the world has no value to the student. I might be able to construct perfect complex sentences, but if I cannot *use* the language it's not much good to me. There is a lot that could be done with this course to bring it in line with the needs of students and to promote fluency and more rational acquisition of the grammar of Hawaiian. I love learning languages, but frankly I find this course very dry and, sadly, a typical language learning course from the 1950s, except that it's delivered over the Internet. Memorize the grammar rule, translate the sentences. Do the exercises. Take the test. These are the same things that lead thousands of students all over the US to dislike Spanish, French, German, or any language they took in high school "way back when" when those languages were also taught this way.

I really hope that Hawaiian, with its cultural emphasis on "talk story", can be brave enough to move ahead to really capture the interest and enthusiasm of people who want to learn the language to fluency. If they are all stalled by grammar-heavy methods, I do fear for the future of the language. Hopefully the immersions are enough to keep it going.

Take a look at www.bignosechinese if you can't imagine how a language can be taught with a focus on meaning and a de-emphasis of grammar, while still having the students acquire the correct grammar. At the end of that course, the students were able to read an 1100 word story in (romanized) Chinese. Is their Chinese "perfect"? No, but they want to go on with it, and they can use it. It is a living language for them.  Hawaiian and Chinese are very similar in many ways, notably their lack of verb conjugations. One could potentially catapault people to good oral fluency in Hawaiian in very short order, if the methods are changed.

ko'u mana'o wale n?
na M?lia
Kumu ʻAlika
Re: Hawaiian is a dead language
by Kumu ʻAlika - Monday, June 30, 2008, 5:06 PM
Mahalo e M?lia for your open and honest loiloi of our online program.  Have you tried the puke ??lelo ??iwi by Mr. H?k?lani Cleeland, originally published by the ?Aha P?nana Leo as well?  I think you may find what you are looking for there...(focus is on speaking vs. heavy emphasis on grammar using the pepeke method).

I will check out the bignosechinese website shortly.  Mahalo.

na Kumu ?Alika
Picture of Terry Waltz
Re: Hawaiian is a dead language
by Terry Waltz - Tuesday, July 1, 2008, 3:54 AM
Aloha e Kumu 'Alika,

Mahalo nui loa! I will (if possible) k??ai mai a heluhelu i k?l? puke. Aia ka puke inoa "Spoken Hawaiian" o Samuel Elbert ma ko?u hale. He puke hoihoi k?n?.

E Kumu, ?o kou ?o ka "podcast" ma ""?

Aia n? podcasts, aia n? puke...?a?ole "dead" ka ??lelo Hawai?i!

na M?lia

Kumu ʻAlika
Re: Hawaiian is a dead language
by Kumu ʻAlika - Wednesday, July 2, 2008, 2:41 PM
Maika?i e M?lia.  I think you would enjoy ??lelo ??iwi.

And, ?ae, that is my "ho?olele hualono" that I haven't had time to work on.  Au?!

?Ae, ke ola nei n? ka ??lelo Hawai?i!

na Kumu ?Alika
Kumu ʻAlika
Re: Hawaiian is a dead language
by Kumu ʻAlika - Tuesday, July 8, 2008, 4:53 PM
Aloha hou k?ua e M?lia,

I have shared your ideas from your initial post with Dr. Wilson, a linguist on the Board of Directors of the ?Aha P?nana Leo.  He, like I, was very appreciative of your thoughts regarding how we could improve our on-line learning and perhaps gain from a careful study of the bignosechinese program

Here is his mana?o as a reply to your n?nau:

One point is that our current on-line learning program is different from bignosechinese in its primary target audience.  Bignosechinese "Chinese for Westerners by Westerners" is directed towards those who seldom have a chance to actually hear or use Chinese.  In our case, our focus is on the parents and staff in our P?nana Leo schools which are conducted entirely in Hawaiian.  The difficulty that we have is in assuring that as we use Hawaiian, English does not overcome the structure of the language and modify it toward English.

Chinese has several million native speakers and there is little worry that it will be so highly modified by use by second language speakers that it will loose its distinctive character.  For Hawaiian, this is a real worry.  

Someday, I think it would be wonderful to have Hawaiian strong enough that we could focus more energy towards those who are totally outside the Hawaiian speaking community.  At this point, however, our challenge is not getting people to feel comfortable speaking Hawaiian--we have been very successful in doing that at our school sites--but, in strengthening the structural base upon which we can more closely connect the language of the large group of second language speakers to the wealth of written and taped language that our ancestors have left us.

The ?Aha P?nana Leo is pleased to include those from outside the community of P?nana Leo parents, staff and extended families in our lessons, but, feel that given the small amount of resources that we have, our focus must remain on the language structure improvement needs of that target group. 

An even higher priority for us is to increase the amount of materials that are written, audio recorded, and video recorded in Hawaiian for the children.  As these materials are for direct communicative use, some of them may be suited to your distinct needs.  A catalog of the materials is available here.

na Pila
Picture of P?kaua Melton
Re: Hawaiian is a dead language
by P?kaua Melton - Monday, June 30, 2008, 5:39 PM

Mr Keinitz makes a very weak argument.  First, on whose authority, besides his, is Hawaiian classified as "dead"?  He doesn't provide a definition of "dead" because he knows, either consciously or subconsciously, that he wouldn't be able to provide one that would apply to Hawaiian and withstand scrutiny.  By his own admission the many Hawaiian speakers on his flight back to Oahu were very much alive.  Second, the assertion that French and Spanish will be of more utility than Hawaiian to the average Hawaiian high school student is ludicrous.  How many students in the entire United States have ever taken French or Spanish (whether elective or compulsory) and then gone on to use it?  Yeah, right.  The main points of foreign language instruction in the US are to broaden the mind, perhaps set the stage for further linguistic or cultural exploration, and to afford a context for examining and better understanding one's primary language and culture.  It can be argued that Hawaiian accomplishes some of these goals better than French or Spanish.  Further, the learning of Hawaiian confers the additional significant advantage of helping Hawaiian high school students understand the original rich and still vibrant culture and language of the place they live, their home. 

Kumu ʻAlika
Re: Hawaiian is a dead language
by Kumu ʻAlika - Monday, June 30, 2008, 10:55 PM
Once again, well said, all of you!  Mahalo to each of you for sharing your mana?o.  ?O wai mai? ("Who's next" ... with their mana?o?)  ;-)

na Kumu ?Alika
Picture of Terry Waltz
Re: Hawaiian is a dead language
by Terry Waltz - Tuesday, July 1, 2008, 3:25 AM
I would be willing to bet that the chances of a Mainland high school student to use Spanish are about the same (maybe a bit more now, but that will change, I hope) as the chances of a Hawaiian student to really use Hawaiian in daily life. There ARE many times in the Mainland now when certain people only speak Spanish, or only speak Spanish well enough to really get anything done. So the dynamic is a bit different. But you're right -- even when there is probably no chance of a student using the language, it is still not without value to study it. When (realistically) will I ever have the chance to speak Hawaiian, living in upstate New York? I just like it, and that is reason enough to learn it if I choose.

It's interesting to me, though, that anyone would resist having Hawaiian spoken in Hawaii. I can at least see the point (a little bit)  of those in the Mainland who say, "Let the immigrants learn English; why should we have to learn Spanish for them?" But you can hardly say that in Hawai'i, can you?!?
Picture of Kaiaulu Hazel
Re: Hawaiian is a dead language
by Kaiaulu Hazel - Friday, July 25, 2008, 11:52 AM
Aloha k?kou,

Wow, somehow I missed this whole thread previously, but very interesting to read the articles and everyone's mana'o about this topic.

Clearly, Hawai'ian is far from a "dead" language, it is very much alive and well.  Offering (or requiring) Hawai'ian language study in all Hawai'i high schools would be an excellent way to help ensure that it continues to thrive.  Personally, I think it should be offered in some mainland schools as well, especially in areas like the Bay Area here where there are lots of Hawai'ian people living.

I also believe that language and cultural diversity can be compared to bio-diversity on our planet - both are in danger, and need the active intervention of human beings to undo the damage we have done. Just as humans have damaged the natural environment to the point where the diversity that we need to thrive as a planet is threatened; just so humans have damaged cultural diversity (which includes language diversity), which we also need to thrive as human beings, or we are in danger of becoming one big giant mono-culture someday.  Boring.  In the same way that folks in Hawai'i go out plant taro to revitalize this crop, just so we need to acitvely plant the seeds of the Hawai'ian language and culture.

I was recently in Hawai'i and had a few opportunities to speak Hawai'ian while there - which was thrilling for me - but would have loved to have these opportunities on a daily and moment-by-moment basis.

I have to agree with M?lia that it would be wonderful to somehow have more immersion opportunities as part of this class.  Although I so much appreciate the opportunity to take this class and learn Hawai'ian, and I have learned a lot, I feel that my ability to converse lags far behind my ability to read and write grammatically correct sentences.  I wished that I felt more confident about my ability to actually carry on a conversation in '?lelo Hawai'i.  Even my few brief interactions while I was in Hawai'i did help my confidence a lot, so I think that more wala'au opportunities in the class would be immensely helpful.  Both grammatical correctness and conversational fluency are important in learning a language, I wouldn't necessarily value one over the other.

I do recognize that it is a real challenge to deliver these kinds of opportunities in an internet-based class, and wish I had some more constructive ideas to offer.  But for those who are creating the structure of the classes, any opportunities to converse more - especially for those of us not in Hawai'i - would be extremely helpful and welcomed.

E ola mau ka '?lelo Hawai'i!
Mahalo nui,
na Kaiaulu