Kuapo ʻŌlelo
Hawaiian Hawaii & English


At the turn of the century, people in Hawai‘i were discouraged from using the Hawaiian language because of increased American influences. As a result, the use of Hawaiian declined and many people have been led to believe that it no longer has a significant place in Hawai‘i today. This, in part, has lead to the widespread misspelling and mispronunciation of Hawaiian words.

Should the Hawaiian language be considered a relic of the past, completely supplanted by English? Or should the Hawaiian language be considered a living, viable and important part of life in Hawai‘i today? For an answer to these questions one has only to look at the numerous occasions upon which Hawaiian is used in everyday life: 1) street names, 2) place names, 3) people's names, 4) common Hawaiian words (ma uka, ma kai, pau, mu‘umu‘u, etc.), and 5) songs. The use of Hawaiian as a living language is also gaining strength as steadily increasing numbers of children and their families are participating in the Hawai‘i Department of Education's Papahana Kaiapuni Hawai‘i Hawaiian Immersion Program.

Does the responsibility of proper Hawaiian usage lie only with people of Hawaiian blood? In answering this question, English may be used as a parallel. Many people in Hawai‘i, despite their different ethnic backgrounds, are concerned with the proper usage of English. Obviously, one does not have to be of English ancestry to be concerned about the correct usage of English. Likewise, the correct usage of the Hawaiian language should be shared by people of all ethnic backgrounds.

Oftentimes, a person may feel reluctant to use correct Hawaiian for fear of being different. This fear can be eliminated, however, if it be understood that every resident of Hawai‘i has the unique opportunity through correct spelling and pronunciation to perpetuate that special language that once flourished in these islands. By seizing this opportunity each of us has the ability to determine in a very significant way the future of the Hawaiian language for Hawai‘i's people.

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