Case Study: Hawaiian
Hawaiian, one of two official languages in the state of Hawaii, is spoken by 8,000 of 400,000 ethnic Hawaiians and used in all domains, including oral literature, songs, and religion. This is a huge drop from the 37,000 native speakers in the 19th century, as travel to and from Hawaiia sharply increased and the status of Hawaiian dropped. As the number of immigrants and the status of English continued to rise, English became “the medium and basis of instruction in all public and private schools” according to the 1896 Laws of the Republic of Hawaii. Most importantly, the native speakers wanted their children to speak English in order to succeed, so they refrained from using Hawaiian at home.
In recent decades, there have been many efforts to promote the language. The first Punana Leo, which is an immersion preschool for children between the ages of two and five years old, was opened on September 4, 1984. Later, the Kula Kaiapuni, a system of immersion schools from elementary to high school, was opened as a continuation of the Punana Leo. The University of Hawaii offers a BA in the Hawaiian language and, in 1998, established the first teacher preparation program specifically aimed at preparing Kula Kaiapuni teachers. Other programs such as the Ke A’a Makalei project have been instituted to expand Hawaiian into other domains outside the classroom, such as a Hawaiian-speaking baseball league.
Today, there are 11 Punana Leo preschools and 1500 students in grades kindergarten to grade 12 in the Kula Kaiapuni program. In 1999, the first class of students entirely educated in the Hawaiian Language Immersion Program graduated from high school. Hawaiian has the most developed movement in indigenous language-medium education in the United States.