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Saturday, August 31, 2002



University of Hawaii

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ROD THOMPSON / RTHOMPSON@STARBULLETIN.COM
University of Hawaii-Hilo professor Kalena Silva looked over a script yesterday for a Hawaiian language lesson to be presented on the Internet, while technical specialist Keola Donaghy looked over his shoulder.over his shoulder.




Hawaiian language
reaches across nation

The University of Hawaii-Hilo
offers an online course
in learning the language


By Rod Thompson
rthompson@starbulletin.com

HILO >> A strong voice is calling from Hilo across America.

Thanks to a Hawaiian language course on the Internet offered by the University of Hawaii-Hilo, Hawaiians across the mainland are answering the call in the language of their ancestors.

The course is run through the College of Hawaiian Language's system called Leoki, or "strong voice."

Fourteen students in Virginia, North Carolina, Illinois, Washington state and California began learning Hawaiian on their home computers Monday, said Keola Donaghy, the technical expert coordinating the UH-Hilo effort.

Students can send messages to a "conference," similar to a chatroom, hear spoken Hawaiian on their home computer, send spoken replies and, eventually, even hear music such as a song by Keola Beamer.

"The most difficult possible subject to teach is language," said Donaghy, who is also a teaching assistant.

"Any language is difficult to learn," said professor Kalena Silva, in charge of instruction. "It takes an enormous amount of discipline and a good deal of mental skills."

That may be part of why about 60 people inquired but only 14 signed up. The university let applicants know they would be held to the same standards as students in a classroom.

The price may also have put some off, $520 for four credits, although that is just a little more than what a resident would pay for classroom instruction and far below what nonresidents would pay.

Students start learning before they even "walk in the door." At UH-Hilo, students must learn a chant asking their professor's permission to enter the classroom, which they recite before every class.

Internet students will also learn the chant and be on their honor to recite it before starting lessons.

Teaching is from an adaptation of the textbook "Na Kai 'Ewalu," "the eight seas," meaning the channels between the Hawaiian Islands. While continental people see oceans as separating people, Hawaiians saw the seas as paths of travel, binding people together, Donaghy explained.

Some bonds apparently already link mainland Hawaiians. UH-Hilo's Margaret Haig, head of the College of Continuing Education and Community Service, publicized the Internet course only in the San Francisco area, but inquiries came from across the nation.

"My family is from Kaneohe, but there are three generations of us living in metropolitan Washington, D.C. -- my mother, me and my daughter," wrote Lanakila Michaels from Virginia. "We are all taking classes in the fall."

Although only a second-semester class was planned for the spring, officials are now considering also repeating a first-semester class, Silva said.

Although the federal grant that made the course possible requires only three semesters of teaching, UH-Hilo officials plan at least four to six.

Calling the whole effort an experiment, Silva said, "We're going to do our very best to see how much we can offer."



University of Hawaii at Hilo



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