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UH professor wants more college classes taught in Hawaiian

HILO >> A University of Hawaii at Hilo professor is working to get an entire curriculum at the university taught in Hawaiian to supplement the language courses taught to children across the state.

About 3,000 students in preschool through high school are involved in Hawaiian language immersion programs statewide, associate professor Larry Kimura told The Hawaii Tribune-Herald.

“We’re trying to convince our state — the University of Hawaii is part of the state — that we need to continue Hawaiian native education at the college level as well,” Kimura said.

He said having college courses such as math and chemistry taught in Hawaiian would benefit students and help make Hawaiian one of two official languages of the state.

Kimura discussed his plans this week at the He Olelo Ola Hilo Field Study, a two-day gathering of people from around the globe who are trying to save indigenous languages. Attendees visited Hawaiian language immersion classes on Monday and Tuesday to learn how they can incorporate the Big Island programs into their own schools.

Participants came from Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the mainland, including from states such as Arizona, Minnesota, New Mexico, Alaska and California.

Kimura said they learned how to deal with “new concepts — in a language that has been sleeping for quite a while.”

“It’s not only about traditional things,” he said. “The hardest thing is understanding how our traditions and laws are going to transition into today.”

The field study participants are hoping their efforts save indigenous languages and the information passed down through the languages with each passing generation.

“It really shows that when a dedicated small group of people comes together for the language with purpose, great things are possible — and great things are happening,” said Victoria Wells of the Nuuchaknulth Nation, indigenous people from the Canadian Pacific Coast.

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