Hawaiian language revitalization: a video with Larry Kimura at the University of Hawai’i Hilo about his long involvement with Hawaiian immersion education.
More about the immersion program in a news story from NBC:
“The Pūnana Leo preschools continue until today based on the simple rule: If you speak only in Hawaiian to the children, they will begin to speak it back to you,” Larry Kimura, associate professor of Hawaiian language and Hawaiian studies at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo, told NBC News. […]
Hawaiian was banned in the state’s schools in 1896. The language nearly died out, according to the Hawaii Department of Education, and in 1978 it was made one of the official languages of the state, leading to changes in Hawaii’s education system. The first Hawaiian medium schools were established in 1985.
According to Kimura, it takes three generations of native speakers to reestablish a language; Hawaii is now seeing its third generation of new Hawaiian native speakers — defined as children who are raised with Hawaiian at home until they are 3 or 4, he said.
After graduating 17 classes of students from K-12 Hawaiian medium schools, enrollment continues to rise, with some of those graduates now sending their own children, according to Kimura. […]
The education system goes beyond just language immersion, Kimura said, and also incorporates Hawaiian educational philosophy. “A more appropriate term perhaps is Hawaiian medium education where we can expand our own Hawaiian education philosophy and knowledge foundation for learning so it is not only about revitalizing our language but our language also connects us to a life force of well-being as a people,” he said.
Further details in a news release from the University of Hawaii Hilo. Excerpt:
He ʻŌlelo Ola Hilo is a field study hosted each year at UH Hilo for an international group of indigenous language specialists. It allows attendees to experience firsthand the efforts being made to revitalize the Hawaiian language using Hawaiian as the medium of formal education from the infant toddler level all the way to college degrees.
This year’s field study was held on Feb. 28 and March 1— it is considered a field study because the Hawaiian language process cannot merely be discussed, it must be seen in action.
For this 5th conference, there was record attendance, the majority native peoples or those working with endangered native languages, from Okinawa, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Alaska, Minnesota, New Mexico and other U.S. states. Registration was closed after 165 people signed up.
The theme of this year’s He ʻŌlelo Ola Hilo Field Study is ʻO Ka ʻŌlelo Ke Kaʻā O Ka Mauli, Language Binds Us To Our Cultural Identity.
Each year, field trip attendees visit and partake in the closest immersion school, ʻAha Pūnana Leo, which is located near UH Hilo. Immersion schools include students from infant level to high school level and currently encompasses 21 sites with 3,000 students—these students are educated in the mother tongue of Hawai‘i.
During this year’s two-day event, in addition to ʻAha Pūnana Leo, the group visited Nāwahīokalaniʻōpuʻu kindergarten–high school Hawaiian immersion program, and the UH Hilo Ka Haka ʻUla O Keʻelikōlani College of Hawaiian Language degree programs (undergraduate, graduate and doctoral) and Hawaiian immersion teacher licensing program Kahuawaiola. […]
“Education is the first step toward revitalization and we are using the same system that took it away to bring it back,” says Kimura […] “We don’t want to reestablish our language just to have it die because we are not cultivating the environment for it to flourish,” he says.
I was lucky enough to get to attend the Hilo Field Study this year when I was in Hawaii for ICLDC, and to see their inspiring work first hand. One of the themes that came up was the idea not just of revitalization but of renormalization. By many measures, the revitalization of the Hawaiian language has been very successful, but the goal isn’t just to have people speaking the language all the way through school – it’s also to have it be normal for people to speak it on the streets, in the home, and in workplaces beyond the university.
One of the efforts that we learned about was expanding Hawaiian-medium university courses at UH Hilo beyond the current Hawaiian language, culture, and teacher training and into general education subject areas like sciences, arts, business, and so on. There’s a bill currently going through the Hawaii state legislature towards this goal.
Another project is ʻŌiwi TV, which produces video and social media posts in Hawaiian to give people things to read, watch, and interact with in Hawaiian. You can watch videos on their website (such as this series on learning Hawaiian) or follow them on facebook, twitter, or instagram.