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Pele Harman, center, is a teacher at Ke Kula ʻO Nāwahīokalaniʻōpuʻu, UH Hilo’s Hawaiian language immersion school for elementary and high school students. (courtesy of PBS Hawaiʻi)

Poet Bob Holman travels across the globe to uncover answers to a question scholars have asked for many years—What does it take to save a language? His travels include a stop in Hawaiʻi to feature ongoing efforts to perpetuate the native language.

Language Matters with Bob Holman makes its Hawaiʻi broadcast premiere Thursday, March 19, 8 p.m. on PBS Hawaiʻi. Filmed around the world, the two-hour documentary features Hawaiʻi in the third of three acts.

Hawaiʻi participants

  • Arlene W. Eaton, a kupuna who grew up speaking only Hawaiian
  • Pele Harman, a teacher at Ke Kula ʻO Nāwahīokalaniʻōpuʻu
  • Kauanoe Kamanā, University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo Ka Haka ʻUla O Keʻelikōlani College of Hawaiian Language associate professor and director of Ke Kula ʻO Nāwahīokalaniʻōpuʻu
  • Larry Kimura, Ka Haka ʻUla O Keʻelikōlani College of Hawaiian Language associate professor
  • Kepa Maly, executive director of the Lānaʻi Culture and Heritage Center
  • W.S. Merwin, former American poet laureate
  • Lolena Nicholas, Kawaihuelani Center for Hawaiian Language instructor
  • Puakea Nogelmeier, UH Mānoa Kawaihuelani Center for Hawaiian Language professor
  • Kealiʻi Reichel, kumu hula and a celebrated singer and songwriter
  • Kauaʻi Sai-Dudoit, works at the Hawaiian Language Newspaper Archive

Go the the show website for more on each participant.

Other global stops

  • In Australia, Holman visits Charlie Mangulda, an Aboriginal songman (poet), who is the only person left on the planet who speaks Amurdak. With linguist Nick Evans, Holman also flies to Goulburn Island off the coast of Northern Australia, where he meets a community of 400 people speaking 10 languages, many endangered, all vulnerable.
  • In Wales, Holman explores the humor, rage and lyricism of the Welsh people, who brought their language back from the edge of extinction. Currently, three million people live in Wales and speak the native language.

For more information, read the PBS show website or UH Hilo Stories.

Adapted from a PBS Hawaiʻi news release

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