E Ola Mau Ka Olelo Hawaii: The Future of Native Hawaiian Language

Pages: 5 (1851 words) Published: May 5, 2013
    “E ola mau ka olelo Hawai’i” (long live the language of Hawai’i) is the motto for all children and teachers who are associated with the Punanaleo and Kulakaiapuni Hawaiian Language Immersion Schools throughout the state of Hawaii. Growth and success of this program can be traced to the same success in other countries in preserving their native languages which at one time were almost extinct much like here with the Native Hawaiian Language. The culture began to revive its ancient practices and now grows to blend with contemporary times. There is a concern that this program will not benefit all children because some of them will have difficulty adjusting to two ways of teaching at the same time. However, Immersion schools continue to be of great demand and spread across the state. Hawai’i should definitely support the spread of immersion language schools to provide more opportunities for the students to learn and preserve the language and culture of Hawai’i.     Immersion schools in Hawai’i are successful because the organizers first studied the immersion schools that had already existed in other countries. Immersion schools are defined as places of education where a student is totally immersed in an inherent language but learning the courses and classes of a conventional program. The Maori language of New Zealand was in jeopardy so immersion schools began (May, Hill and Tiakiwai) In New Zealand and between the 1930’s and 1960’s, the number if Maori that could speak in their native tounge dropped from about 96.6 percent to only 26 percent (“Bilingual Education in Aotearoa”). There was a whole generation of Maori who didn’t know how to speak their language. This led leaders to fear that Maori would become a dead language unless serious efforts to revive the language and encourage more people to speak Maori again. Their serious efforts to educate by immersion programs began in 1980’s (May, Hill and Tiakiwai). This was also the case in Canada when many of the “First Nation” tribes were beginning to realize that their customs and language were on the very edge of disappearing. Over the last 20 years many school systems across the country have taken research very seriously and started language immersion programs in the elementary level (Redbord and Sachetti). For instance, Fairfax Country Virginia currently offers immersion programs in Spanish, Japanese, French and German at 13 different elementary schools (‘Language Immersion Programs”). Based on approximate judgment by the Indigenous Language Institute though more than 300 indigenous languages existed in United States in the 19th century, only 175 exist today (Ng-Osorio and Ledward). All the numerical fact clearly prove that immersion schools are very valuable in cultures that are on the edge of disappearing because their language has not been practiced. In consequence of that, Hawai’i began to follow their footsteps by establishing their own schools and following the success of others already in existence.     History of Hawaiian Language Immersion Schools began in 1980. In 1984 the first pre-school was eastablished in Kekaha, Kauai in August (“History aha Punana leo”). In the following years schools were established in Hilo, Hawai’i, and Honolulu (“History aha Punana leo”). This was a result of Hawaiian Language studies increasing at the University of Hawai’i Hilo level to 27 students (Warchauer). Practitioners and educators got together and formed the Punana Leo Schools to save the nearly extinct language (Kamana and Wilson). The name “Punana Leo” means the “Nest of Voices” (Kamana and Wilson). It was chosen because the function on the school was to serve as a nest where the children are fed the Hawaiian Language much as a young bird would be fed by its mother (Redbord and Sachetti). Students of all races who attend the Punana Leo are treated equally and will be nourished by Hawaiian language. The formation of Punana leo was the most important language initiative from...
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