The Language Lives on TikTok

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Read this article in ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi

Social media is huge now. People can publish their thoughts, share information, and announce news online along with pictures and videos on various media platforms. Facebook is one of those social media platforms used by 2.9 billion users every day. I am one of the billion users.

Photo: TikTok videos
Kahakuhailoa and Puaokamele Dizon of Lāhaina on TikTok.

However, when it comes to watching videos, TikTok is my favorite. I appreciate TikTok because I am able to watch diverse people from diverse cultures singing and dancing like the Māori, Native Americans, Mongolian, Tibetan, and of others elsewhere without having to visit there.

Screenshot of TikTok video
A page from TikTok video by Kahakuhailoa.

Also, if someone is interested in learning Hawaiian, he can follow social media producers like Puaokamele Dizon (@puaokamele), Maluhia States (@ka.alala) or Kumu Kui (@kumukui). They are two that I follow but there are many other social media creators.

One evening as I was scrolling through TikTok, my ears and eyes were drawn to a video that was downloaded by a young man of Molokaʻi by the name of Kahakuhailoa Poepoe (@kajahku). Lydia Hale, a native of Molokaʻi, was the Hawaiian language-speaking guest on the video speaking with Elizabeth Kauahipaula, Hailama Farden, and Ipo Wong on the program, Manaleo. It is just a segment of the program but I appreciated Kahakuhailoa’s translation of the interview because I produced the show and did not provide a transcription of the interviews. On TikTok, the video producer can create a video that is either 15 or 60 seconds or 3 to 20 minutes. Though short, the producer shows his or her skill and creativity in the editing process. If someone is interested in his or her material then they can select to “follow” that producer.

The video interview with Lydia Hale probably came from the online repository called Kaniʻāina located on Ulukau.org, or Kaʻiwakīloimoku, or the UH online library. There are four collections on Kaniʻāina: Ka Leo Hawaiʻi, Kū i ka Mānaleo, Nā Hulu Kūpuna, and Mānaleo. Ka Leo Hawaiʻi and Kū i ka Mānaleo are radio programs. Therefore, a TikTok producer like Kahakuhailoa Poepoe must look for a still image or moving image to support the pieces she chooses to feature.

One such interesting piece that Poepoe shared on TikTok was an interview recorded by Clinton Kanahele of Hilda Kawelo of Kaʻalaea, Oʻahu during the 1970s. The elder spoke about people who trespassed on her land. They were hippies. There are other segments with Kawelo on @kajahku. I would encourage you all to search for @kajahku on TikTok and listen to the pleasing voices of native-speaker elders that he has downloaded.

The native speaker interviews recorded by Clinton Kanahele can be accessed at https://library.byuh.edu/clinton-kanahele-collection. In this repository at BYU-Hawaiʻi, are the transcriptions of each interview by Kanahele. That is a blessing. Therefore, producers like Poepoe must join the voices to translations to help viewers. The interview with Hilda Kawelo is almost two hours so if the producer can choose to produce an attractive and shorter clip thereby attracting the eyes of TikTok friends, that would be great. If they view the TikTok pieces then the voices of the elders live again.