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OHA: Office of Hawaiian Affairs

OHA celebrates ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi month

By Treena Shapiro

You may have noticed Ka Wai Ola’s cover looks different this month – more like a pre-statehood ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i nūpepa than OHA’s regular monthly offering.

It’s OHA’s way of marking ‘Ōlelo Hawai‘i month, as February was officially designated in 2012 to celebrate and encourage the use of the Hawaiian language. Included as part of OHA’s bill package, the legislation that gave ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i its own month requires “that all letterheads, documents, symbols and emblems of the State and other political subdivisions include accurate and appropriate Hawaiian names and words, including proper Hawaiian spelling and punctuation.”

‘Ōlelo Hawai‘i has come a long way since the 1980s, when the language was considered nearly extinct with fewer than 50 keiki fluent in the language. A number of initiatives, including Hawaiian language immersion schools and programs, have led to considerably more speakers. According to a state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism report in 2016, 18,610 residents speak Hawaiian in the home.

However, while Hawaiian is an official state language, like English, there’s no mandatory Hawaiian language instruction in the public schools, and government business continues to be conducted almost entirely in English. To encourage more use of the language, OHA provides support for schools and organizations similarly committed to preserving the indigenous culture and within this OHA newspaper, a new ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i column will be launching next month.

The insert included in the Feb. issue is our offering to those who refuse to let Hawai‘i’s indigenous language disappear, including many who are helping to revitalize the language by teaching a new generation of speakers and translators. The special section does not include translations or summaries to be faithful to the hundreds of Hawaiian language nūpepa that inspired it. We hope it inspires you to learn more about Hawaiian culture and language, and perhaps even begin working toward fluency in ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i.

Read “Ka Wai Ola O OHA” a special feature that is reminiscent of the old Hawaiian language nūpepa with articles from five authors written entirely in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi.




For keiki, ‘Aha Pūnana Leo offers programs for infants and toddlers, as well as family-run preschools that include ‘ohana in weekly language and culture classes. In addition, the Hawai‘i Department of Education’s Kaiapuni schools offer Hawaiian language immersion programs that offer instruction exclusively in ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i through the fifth-grade.

For those already out of high school, the University of Hawai‘i campuses offer Hawaiian language classes for speakers at all skill levels. However, heading to campus isn’t practical for many adults. Luckily, there is a range of options for learners from those who want to pick up some basic conversational Hawaiian to those who prefer the rigor of a college-level course. You can find a sampling of options below.


Kumu Kaimana Chock offers a basic introduction to Hawaiian language every other Thursday from 6:30 to 8 p.m.


> Kamehameha Schools’ Distance Learning Program A‘o Mauka

This online enrichment program for adults allows you to learn on your own computer, and your own time.

> ‘Aha Pūnana Leo’s Niuolahiki Distance Learning

This self-directed online course allows you to pay for a chapter at a time to move from basic to more advanced language skills.


> ‘Ōiwi TV’s Ka Leo ‘Ōiwi

This 13-episode series offers a basic foundation in ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i through language instruction and review, cultural activities and mele from musical guests. Episodes can be streamed online or downloaded.


The Merwin Conservancy offers even more options from college classrooms to online learning tools in “Language Matters: Resources for Learning to Speak Hawaiian” by Sara Tekuka.


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