Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Talk That Talk

My experience living in Hawai'i has been eye-opening for many reasons, one being the exposure I have gained to the Hawaiian language.  While I am familiar with many words and word parts that make up the language, my understanding is not yet to the point where I can decipher sentences or comprehend when it's spoken.  Still, I recognize Hawaiian language as one that is rich with meaning  and subtleties  and compelling in the depth of its overall representation.

As has been the case historically for many people in cultures around the world, Hawaiian people were banned from speaking their native language once outsiders invaded and imposed their customs and attributes, including the English language.  This imposition was strongly enforced in schools and governmental affairs. This year, though, Hawaiians gained a victory on this front.

A judge recently ruled that a translator will be provided for anyone who chooses to speak Hawaiian in court even if the speaker is also fluent in English.  See, what's been happening outside of the legal venue is a resurgence of and attempt to preserve this gem of a language. It's been taught in schools, promoted in children's books, and accessed regularly by natives and non-natives alike.  Babies speak it as well as adults who learned early and continued the legacy. Despite efforts to suppress it, Hawaiian is alive and growing stronger. It's proliferation is inevitable.  So, when a professor from The University of Hawaii Maui College was issued a bench warrant for choosing  to address the judge and identify himself speaking only his native language, a movement was born. (Although the defendant was standing right there in court, the judge essentially dismissed his presence.) The judge's annoyance revolved around his own lack of knowledge of the language as well as the fact that the man standing before him was indeed fluent in English. 
During the process of writing this post, I learned that February is Hawaiian Language Month.

Protests ensued following the confrontation, and when it was all said and done, the court had relented.  After all, Hawaiian is one of the state's official languages. Now money will be found to pay translators for anyone who chooses to speak Hawaiian during a legal preceding, even if they are perfectly capable of speaking English.

Of course, people are mad as will always be the case, cause, well conformity.  Some feel that Hawaiians should just fall in line, speak English like everybody else. The basic nature of such a premise makes it hard for me to address or pay much attention to.  As far as I'm concerned, this is a substantial win for Hawaiians and  perpetuation of culture that's been at potential risk of being lost.  I personally find it hard to be mad at that. 

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