On October 8, Indigenous People’s Day, over 150 people gathered at SALT in Kaka‘ako to celebrate the launch of a new way for kānaka in Hawai‘i and abroad to learn ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i for free. Duolingo is the world’s most popular online language-learning platform, with over 30 languages and 300 million users, and its newest language is ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i.

Kanaeokana, a network of over 50 Hawaiian culture-based schools and educational organizations, partnered with the Kamehameha Schools and Duolingo to bring ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i to the platform. Most of Duolingo’s courses are created by bilingual volunteers from around the world. Since there are fewer speakers of ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i, Kanaeokana and Kamehameha partnered to bring together a group of Hawaiian-language specialists from across the islands to create the initial content set.

Long-time Hawaiian-language teachers and advocates Ekela Kaniaupio-Crozier, Pōki‘i Seto, Kaua Neumann, Keoni Kelekolio and Makana Garma made up the development team who worked with Duolingo to create the ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i content and record the audio pronunciations used in the lessons.

“Hiki iā kākou ke ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i ma nā wahi a pau. ‘O ia ku‘u mana‘olana no kēia hana a mākou e hana nei,” said Ekela Kaniaupio-Crozier, who has over four decades of experience teaching ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i. “‘O ia ka mana‘olana e pahū mai ana ia‘u i nā lā a pau, kekahi lā i lohe pinepine ‘ia he mea ma‘a mau ka ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i, ‘a‘ole he mea hou, ‘a‘ole he mea ‘ē i ka pepeiao.”

(‘We will be able to speak Hawaiian everywhere. That is my hope for this project that we are doing. That’s what drives me every single day. I’m envisioning a day when the Hawaiian language is heard all the time. It’s not something new or something that sounds out of place to your ear.’)

Photo: Duolingo app
Duolingo’s free Hawaiian language classes are available for computer and mobile devices. – Photo: Kawena Carvalho-Mattos

With Duolingo, you can learn ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i anywhere you have access to the internet, through your computer or your smartphone. Lessons will be added to the app as the development team creates them. The Duolingo platform is intended to make ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i more accessible, especially for those like working parents who do not have the time to take classes, though more advanced lessons are in the works. Ten more lessons are expected to be added to the course by November.

‘ōlelo Hawai‘i joined Diné, spoken by the Navajo people, as the first two indigenous languages on Duolingo, and it is hoped that there are more to come. Since ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i launched on Duolingo on October 8, there are already over 10,000 users actively learning our ‘ōlelo. Join them and learn ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i wherever you go. Go to www.duolingo.com or download the Duolingo app from Apple’s App Store or the Google Play Store for Android.