HONOLULU (KHON2) – As technology advances, so do the opportunities we have to also advance.

As Mahina ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi, or Hawaiian Language Month, progresses, a free online application known as Duolingo continues to gain popularity around the world leading to more people knowing how to speak Hawaiian.  

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I was able to talk story with one of the men who is behind the program. 

Thank you Maui for taking the time.  

When we are speaking of Duolingo, this first of all has been 5 years since Hawaiian has been included in this.  

Tell us a little about what Duolingo is and how has the past 5 years been in terms of engagement. 

“Well, first of all, Duolingo is an online language learning app” says Maui Bartlett, Solutions Engineer and Design Lead at Kamehameha Schools.  

“You can download it on your phone, on your laptop, you can learn a language at home really easily. And we partnered, Kamehameha Schools and Kanaeokana, partnered with Duolingo to create this ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi course.  From that time in 2018 to now, there is over 600,000 people, users globally around the world and here in Hawaiʻi, in America, all over the place using this and learning ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi

What is the difference between Duolingo and let’s say other language applications? 

“So one thing about Duolingo, in our partnership with them when we first started to work with them, they didn’t have recorded audio,” says Bartlett.

“All of the language of the major world languages that they were teaching, all the audio for those languages, Spanish, French, English and others, those are computer generated voices.  So, when we started working with them, we really wanted to make sure that folks could hear ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi spoken and learn.  Even though they are working outside of the classroom, maybe on their own at home, they at least have those examples, and they can learn and practice at home.  Speak out loud and learn pronunciation as well as sentence patterns.”

Why is it important to continue to teach and people to continue to learn how to speak Hawaiian language? 

“I think the most important thing is that it’s really about connection and identity, our love for this place, our aloha for each other, and building that connection to our kūpuna,” says Bartlett.

“A lot of people don’t have access to ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi learning. Many people I have met personally feel separated from their heritage and tradition and I think that if we can help to connect people, I think that’s a beautiful thing.”

It has been said by taking away a language, you take away a culture.  

So conversely, by strengthening a language, you strengthen a culture.  

Duolingo is helping to do that with their free application, either through your mobile device or their website online.  

No matter where you are located around the world or whatever your level in Hawaiian language, this program is for you.  

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To find out more about this program, click here.

To sign up for free, click here.