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A Lesson in Hawaiian

Cover Image: Masthead of Ka Hoku o Hawaii published on October 19, 1938.

Aloha mahina ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi!

As an opening to ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi month, we are highlighting the beginning of a series printed in Ka Hoku o Hawaii in the late 1930s that printed Hawaiian language vocabulary and terms with English translations to assist certain readers. At this time in the 1930s, the Hawaiian language had been on a steep decline for decades since the turn of the century. With the younger generations of Hawaiʻi no longer as accustom to Hawaiian, it created a demand for the last standing Hawaiian language newspaper to publish sections to aid these readers with lessons in Hawaiian and growing English segments.

The beginning of this column titled “He haawina i kekahi poe” or “A lesson for some” was originally printed in 1938 in the English section of Ka Hoku o Hawaii, but later in 1939 was renamed “A lesson in Hawaiian.” It began printing in October 1938 with introductory lessons to Hawaiian such as its alphabet and vowels. As it continued, the series printed an array of Hawaiian terms with English definitions in this weekly newspaper, publishing the terms in English lexographical order.

This call for a running column of vocabulary in nūpepa was not a novel matter. In fact, forty years prior, Ka Nupepa Kuokoa printed “He Waihona o ka Naauao” (A Repository of Knowledge) in 1898 and “Ke Ao Piliolelo Enelani” (An English Grammar Lesson) in 1896. These both were columns that printed English lexicon with Hawaiian definitions to help readers who were more adept in Hawaiian than English. The greater majority of the population in the late nineteenth century persistently continued to be more proficient in Hawaiian than English. However, through the initial decades of the twentieth century, Hawaiʻi’s vernacular inverted into an English dominant society by its next generation. Thus, creating the necessity for “A Lesson in Hawaiian” by the 1930s.

Image: “He haawina i kekahi poe,” Ka Hoku o Hawaii, October 19, 1938, p. 4

A lesson for some

For practicing Hawaiian language.

Due to the request of some friends asking our Circulation Manager and Editor of English to publish under the Star some matter so that they can read and understand this type of Hawaiian language, and for that reason we are publishing some vocabulary for the benefit of these people. They spoke to us saying if the Star will be able to support the knowledge of Hawaiian language, then they will be ready to receive and pay for the newspaper, paying the taxes on the cash. So, we are inserting light vocabulary so that these people can understand the kind of pronunciation of Hawaiian language.

Alphabet: A E I O U H K L M N P W


a – as in adore.

e – as in left.

i – as in lift.

o – as in old.

u – as in cube.

Some of the more commonly used words.

oe – you.

owau – I.

Hele – go.

Hele mai – come.

E hele ana oe i hea? Where are you going?

inoa – name.

Owai kou [inoa]? – What is your name?

Pehea oe? – How are you?

He maikai no. – quite well.

[E] hele kaua i ka holoholo. – Let us go for a walk or let us go strolling.

Kauka – Doctor.

Mea ma’i – Patient.

Hana – work.

(To be continued)

Image: Course of Study for The Public English Schools of Hawaii. Published by Order Of the Board of Education, Honolulu: Press Publishing Company, 1888.

Image: A Historical Sketch of Education in the Hawaiian Islands. Published by Order Of the Board of Education of the Hawaiian Kingdom, Honolulu: Press Publishing Company, 1888.

Image: English Lessons For Hawaiians. Rev. Wm. B. Oleson, Principal, Hilo Boarding School, Hawaiian revised by Rev. A. O. Forbes, Honolulu: Thos. G. Thrum, Printer and Stationer, 1884.

Image: “He Waihona o ka Naauao,” Ka Nupepa Kuokoa, September 9, 1898, p. 2

Image: “Ke Ao Piliolelo Enelani,” Ka Nupepa Kuokoa, September 18, 1896, p. 3

This post is part of He Aupuni Palapala: Preserving and Digitizing the Hawaiian Language Newspapers, a partnership between Bishop Museum and Awaiaulu with assistance from Kamehameha Schools. Mahalo nui loa to Hawaii Tourism Authority for their support. Learn more about this project here.

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