HONOLULU (KHON2) — The month of February was designated as Mahina ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi, or Hawaiian Language Month, in 2012.  

The City and County of Honolulu began offering Hawaiian language training to all its employees to celebrate it in 2021, free of charge.

The executive director of the Mayor’s Office of Culture and Arts (MOCA), Makanani Salā, is using her educational background from the University of Hawaii system to create new initiatives within the city’s government to better practice the phrase “host culture.”   

“Particularly, my strength is in Hawaiian culture,” says Makanani Salā, Executive Director of MOCA.

“It’s what I do, its where I come from, it’s how I’m trained.  But Hawaiʻi is a multicultural place.  So, I think it’s very good to ground ourselves in Hawaiian culture, but be cognizant of the many, many different cultures and people that make their home here in Hawaiʻi.”

The Hawaiian language is spoken more often than people may think — from place names to common local-slang and beyond.

Not everyone gets it right 100% of the time, however.

“Because some of the words we use every day, like Honolulu instead of Hanalulu, is one of the challenges, right,” says Salā.

“And it’s not that people were trying to be disrespect or trying to be flippant, they just don’t know, right,” she said. “So, I think it’s part of our job to assure that we help people gain that knowledge.”

Teaching and learning through Hawaiian language was banned in 1896.

It was not until 1978 when the State of Hawaiʻi finally recognized ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi as an official language. 

“So, to be able to not just speak Hawaiian but it to have it be an official language, and there are many commissions now who are doing minutes in Hawaiian language, just those steps I think and be able to speak Hawaiian freely and to know that Hawaiian is an official language and the language of the people, I think is huge for us,” says Sala.

More than 100 participants signed up for the first Hawaiian language training session.  

If the demand continues, Salā will continue to build curriculum to keep the classes going if the demand continues.  

Those who are interested in learning how to speak Hawaiian can click here for some of the available online resources.

Click here for the online Hawaiian Dictionary.