Normalizing Hawaiian Language


Read this article in ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi

ʻAno mau (adj. Normal.)

Photo: Sylvia Hussey

Aloha mai kākou,

My mother was a mānaleo, a native speaker of Hawaiian.

When we visited my grandparents’ house, it was normal for her and my grandparents to chat in Hawaiian – especially when they were discussing things they didnʻt want me to hear or understand.

That was a fairly common experience for many Hawaiians who are now in their 50s or older; ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi was not taught to them by their parents or grandparents.

Our kūpuna cannot be faulted for not sharing the language. In 1896, three years after the overthrow of the kingdom, Hawaiian language was banned from schools.

Thereafter, children speaking Hawaiian in school were beaten and punished. That generation, and the one that followed, learned to equate their ʻōlelo makuahine with condemnation and pain.

By the 1970s only a few hundred native speakers remained. But thanks to the tireless efforts of kūpuna and a new generation of language advocates, today there are more than 20,000 speakers. The breadth of speakers throughout the paeʻāina is complemented by its depth; ʻōiwi from kūpuna to keiki are now fluent in Hawaiian.

Hawaiian language medium education settings, from PreK to post-high, are found across the paeʻāina; and speakers actively engage in government, health, social services and business sectors in transactional, transformational and “normalized” ways.

By presenting this issue of Ka Wai Ola in both Hawaiian and English, we hope to contribute to the normalization of ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi and its total integration into the strengthening of our ʻohana, perpetuation of our moʻomeheu and stewardship of our ʻāina.

E ola mau ka ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi.

Sylvia M. Hussey, Ed.D.
Chief Executive Officer