By Ryan Ozawa
The Distance Learning program at Kamehameha Schools is offering classes to teach you everything you wanted to know about the Hawaiian language, but were afraid to ask.
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.
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. Kamehameha Schools is definitely among the more credible institutions, along with ‘Aha Pūnana Leo, offering an online option.
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.
Right now, the Kamehameha Schools Distance Learning program has a Hawaiian Language Series special, with Level 1 and Level 2 available for free (if you register by Wednesday, July 15, or by mid-September, respectively). It's the first time two classes are being offered at no charge. 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.
“There are activities to do with keiki because the original target audience was families with small children,” Matsukawa explains. “But thereʻs lots of information for adults, and theyʻre a great teacher resource.”
She also stressed that the courses are not limited to people affiliated with Kamehameha Schools.
“Actually, most of the learners are people in the community, mostly in Hawaii but also on the continental U.S. and around the world,” Matsukawa says. “Our [mainland] learners say they really appreciate being able to connect their families with Hawaiian culture and language from where they are — since theyʻre 24/7 and online, anyone can participate.”
The two free introductory courses are:
- E Ola ka ʻOhana: (Aug. 3-28, 2015): At the core of Hawaiian being is the family. In the first Papa ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi or Hawaiian Language course vocabulary and sentence patterns will focus around the concept of ʻohana. Course activities will include practice exercises, a short haʻi ʻōlelo or speech in which each participant gives basic information about themselves, and a recitation of moʻokūʻauhau or genealogy. Register by July 15.
- Pili ʻOhana (Oct 5-30, 2015):In ka papa Pili ʻŌhana (the Pili ʻŌhana course) we will revisit some of the concepts taught in E Ola Ka ʻŌhana and build on them by taking a closer look at family relationships and interactions amongst family members. Sentence patterns will focus on introducing and describing family members as well what they enjoy doing. Course activities will include practice exercises and the creation of a digital photo journal about your ʻŌhana. Register by September 15.
The two intermediate courses are Kuʻu Wahi Noho (Nov. 2-27) and Kuleana (Jan. 4-29, 2016), and you can save $5 off each by entering the coupon code “bundle1516” at checkout. Altogether, that's more than half off the usual cost of these distance learning offerings.
And there are even bonus goodies.
“Regularly the series would be $100, but with the specials itʻs $40, and students have access for up to year after the course to practice,” Matsukawa notes. “Also, if students login by the first week they get a set of 20 flash cards, and if they complete three or four short ‘homework assignments,' weʻll send them the wooden Hulo set with Hawaiian letters and syllables.”
Anyone interested in taking these classes should register now, she says, even if they don't know whether they'll be able to participate when they get underway.