Online Hawaiian Language Course Offered at UH Hilo

Course attracting students from across the nation

University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo
Posted: Aug 21, 2002

"I can't wait to begin learning the Hawaiian language," says a student from Virginia. "My family is from Kaneʻohe but there are three generations of us living in metropolitan Washington, D.C.: my mother; me and my daughter. We all are taking classes in the fall. We can't live and work in Hawaiʻi but we are Hawaiian and proud of it."

The first Web-based Hawaiian language course is being offered in a pilot program this fall to students registering through the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo's College of Continuing Education and Community Service.

Dr. Kalena Silva, director of Ka Haka ʻUla O Keʻelikolani College of Hawaiian Language, is teaching the first Hawaiian language instruction via the Internet, with the same curriculum as the UH Hilo campus, Hawaiian 10l, adapted for use in this new teaching medium. The lessons used in this first class are derived from the textbook, Na Kai ʻEwalu, written by Dr. Pila
Wilson and Kauanoe Kamana of Ka Haka ʻUla O Keʻelikolani College of Hawaiian Language. The whole course, including vocabulary lists, explanatory text, exercises, and quizzes, are available on the Web, alleviating the need for a hardcopy textbook.

The eventual aim is to provide students around the world with access to the Hawaiian language through an academic institution or an individual instruction basis. Thus far, inquiries are flooding the campus from expatriate Hawaiians in many different parts of the mainland, including members of many hula schools, Hawaiian interest groups, and Kamehameha Schools alumni.

The project arose from a five-year federally-funded Title III grant and a collaboration with Ka Haka ʻUla o Keʻelikolani College of Hawaiian Language. Plans are to offer Hawaiian 101, 102, 201 and 202 on-line in successive semesters and to expand offerings to individuals and students at other academic institutions, such as the University of Washington, which
has expressed serious interest in receiving the course for students there.

The technology to make teaching the Hawaiian language on the Internet possible depended on interesting applications of computer programming. According to Title III Computer Specialist and Keʻelikolani College M.A. student Keola Donaghy, "During the development of these classes we learned of an interactive Java technology which not only allows students to listen to prerecorded audio samples, but allows them to interact with the
instructor and classmates via an audio discussion board. There is also a pronunciation comparison applet which allows students to record their own pronunciation of words, phrases and complete sentences and compare them to a prerecorded example."

The three Java applets, which Donaghy adapted from this technology, are called Hoʻolohe (listen), Hoʻohalikelike (compare), and Kukakuka (discuss). While the audio recording and feedback sessions are not real-time, they provide students with opportunities to increase their verbal skills in Hawaiian.

Revitalizing indigenous peoples' languages is an area of interest for UH Hilo outlined in the strategic plan and strategic initiatives.