HAWAIIAN LANGUAGE: A new lease of life for a dying tongue

Olelo Hawaii, the Hawaiian language, is said to be one of the world’s oldest living languages. Although it is one of the two official languages in the state of Hawaii, it is considered endangered as it is spoken by just 8,000 of the 400,000 ethnic Hawaiians. The decline in native Hawaiian speakers is the result of an almost century-long ban on the Hawaiian language in schools following the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1893. Families encouraged children to speak English and corporal punishment was used on students who dared to speak their mother tongue. Happily, a Hawaiian Renaissance occurred in the 1970s which saw the resurgence of Hawaiian identity. Many efforts were made to revive Hawaii’s native tongue. Language immersion schools and programs from preschool to university level have been set up and in 1990, the federal government implemented a policy to preserve, use and support Indigenous languages. You are probably already familiar with some Hawaiian words, or you may have heard a few while watching the episode filmed in Hawaii with poi pounder Daniel Anthony. Do you know what these common words mean?

Aloha – Hello/ Goodbye. Also means love, kindness, affection.
Luau – A Hawaiian feast
Lei – A necklace of flowers and leaves
Malo – Traditional loincloth
Ono – Delicious
Pono – Righteousness, proper, moral, good
Aina – The land
Mana – Spiritual power, inner strength
Mahalo – Thank you
Lanai – Porch, veranda
Kanaka – Person/ People
Kapu – Taboo, forbidden, don’t touch
Shaka – Cool, great. Also a friendly hand signal made by extending the thumb and pinkie .
Ukulele – Small string instrument
Wiki - Fast
Apr 2, 2015
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