I studied Hawaiian at UH while slowly working my way toward my journalism degree, and one of the many controversies that arose during my tenure as editor of the then-daily student newspaper was to publish editorial columns in the Hawaiian language without accompanying translations.
(The compromise was to provide printed translations at our office.) But like anything studied in college, my knowledge faded quickly once I left campus.
You can certainly buy books (like the one I started out with) to study on your own, or seek out online guides, but it’s a mixed bag out there.
For the first time, the Distance Learning program at Kamehameha Schools is offering two introductory Hawaiian language classes online for free.
And with just a little bit of homework, you can earn a couple of prizes as well.
Once in danger of being lost forever, the Hawaiian language is now thriving.
It’s an official language of the State of Hawaii, meaning you can execute contracts in Hawaiian, write checks in Hawaiian (and use ATMs in Hawaiian), take your driver’s license exam in Hawaiian, and so on.
In addition, two intermediate courses are being offered for $20, or 20 percent off the usual $25 cost.
“The ‘ōlelo classes seem to be increasing in interest and the free courses are popular for getting started,” KSBE Instructional Support team member Joan Matsukawa tells me.
“Right now we have about 560 enrolled.” The courses cover the basics of the Hawaiian alphabet, vocabulary (beginning with family and home words), and sentence structures, and there are games, presentation slides, fillable worksheets, and quizzes to help students study and practice.
Of course, if you’re really serious about studying Hawaiian, there’s Ka Haka ʻUla O Keʻelikōlani at UH Hilo and the Hawai‘inuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge at UH Manoa.
But for beginners, the introductory courses from Kamehameha Schools are great.