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Hawaiian Language month

On this last day of February, we recognize Hawaiian Language month, a time to celebrate the language and culture of the native people of Hawai’i. Over the last 150 years, ‘Ōlelo Hawai’i (the name of the language in Hawaiian) has not only dwindled and neared extinction; it has been revitalized. The language traditionally spoken by all natives of the islands is now an even more important aspect of preserving the culture and identity of Hawai’i, as the native traditions, lands, and people have lost much of what they hold dear.  


In 1893, the Hawaiian monarchy was illegally overthrown, and natives quickly began losing their rights. Tragically, the use of their mainly oral language was among these. By the mid 1890’s, those who had forcefully taken over the government put a ban on teaching and learning ‘Ōlelo Hawai’i. However, it wasn’t until 1978 that the government legalized the use of language and the preservation of culture. From then until now, ‘Ōlelo Hawai’i has experienced a renewal of life, particularly among the younger generations of Hawaiians.  

What can I do?

Fortunately, the number of language-promoting resources is increasing. Among these are immersion schools for children K-12, improved language technology, and social media platforms, where first- and second-language speakers teach ‘Ōlelo Hawai’i in everyday settings. Efforts like these make the language and culture more accessible to all. Individuals—especially those who seek to visit the islands—should learn all that they can about the culture and language. Education is the way to dispel the appropriation and stereotypes that have accompanied native Hawai’i since its occupation.  

Don’t know where to start? Here are some resources to get you started! No matter where you are on your journey to discover ‘Ōlelo Hawai’i, ask yourself: How can I be an advocate for endangered languages moving forward? 

Ka ʻAlalā 


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