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Lawmakers Consider Olelo Hawaii Month Designation

March 21, 2012, 8:00 AM HST · Updated March 21, 8:03 AM
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Olelo Hawaii legislation. Photo by Wendy Osher.

By Wendy Osher

Two state senate committees will hear a bill this afternoon seeking the designation of February as Olelo Hawaii Month to celebrate and encourage the use of the Hawaiian Language.

Under the bill, lawmakers state that the language was considered to be nearly extinct by the 1980s, when fewer than 50 fluent speakers under the age of 18 were left.

A major reason for the deterioration, as stated in the measure, was an 1896 law that required English instruction in Hawaiian schools.  “In practice, this law functioned to ‘ban’ students from speaking Olelo Hawaii at their schools,” the bill states.

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To save the Hawaiian language, a number of historic initiatives were launched, including Aha Punana Leo’s Hawaiian language immersion preschools, the department of education’s Hawaiian language immersion program and the Hawaiian language programs of the University of Hawaii system.

The Hawaiian language revitalization movement has since made major strides in the last thirty years, for Olelo Hawaii to not just survive, but to also thrive.

A companion bill, SB2175, passed second reading and was referred to the Judiciary Committee.

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The hearing on HB1984 starts at 2:45 p.m.

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