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Hawaiian language course now available on Duolingo

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    Hawaiian language teacher and development team member Ekele Kaniaupio-Crozier addresses the crowd at Salt Kakaako, describing the importance of olelo Hawaii, or Hawaiian language, on Monday.

Hawaiian, one of Hawaii’s official languages, is now available as a course on Duolingo, a popular education platform available online and as an app.

The Hawaiian language, or olelo Hawaii course was symbolically launched Monday, which some cities observed as Indigenous Peoples Day, in tandem with Navajo, at an event at Salt Kakaako.

Hawaiian is one of the state of Hawaii’s two official languages, along with English.

Since there are relatively few speakers of Hawaiian, Kanaeokana, a network of more than 50 Hawaiian culture-based schools and educational groups, and Kamehameha Schools, brought together a group of Hawaiian-language specialists to work on the initial set of content on Duolingo.

“Our language is our foundation, but it is also the language of this land, and everyone, Hawaiian or not, can connect to the aina more deeply through it,” said Keiki Kawaiʻaeʻa, a Hawaiian language expert with Kanaeokana, in a news release. “This course is not about replacing classes; it’s about making olelo Hawaii more accessible. If you are too busy to enroll in classes or even if you just want to brush up on what you learned, Duolingo is an accessible resource. We hope that families and friends will take the opportunity to use the app as a fun and convenient way to engage in learning Hawaiian together.”

Duolingo, based in Pittsburgh, Pa., has more than 300 million users globally, and also offers French, German, Greek, Korean, Vietnamese and Welsh for English speakers.

Duolingo said its goal was to make Hawaiian accessible for free to millions of people eager to learn it, as well as to add more courses for languages considered at-risk or endangered. The Duolingo app is free on iOS and Android.

Already, the Hawaiian language course has at least 10,7000 active learners online, who learn by clicking through a series of lessons that incorporate audio by fluent Hawaiian speakers.

Work on the Hawaiian language course officially began in July.

“The Hawaiian language movement is to carry our olelo to places we never thought it would go, and that’s how it should be,” said Poki‘i Seto, who jumped at the opportunity to work on the development team.

Ekela Kaniaupio-Crozier, a Hawaiian culture facilitator at Kamehameha Schools Maui, said part of the challenge was creating a language lesson online in brief, bite-sized segments.

“You’re really just getting people to start a conversation,” she said. “We’re hopeful that people will use this as a jump start to learning more of the language, and making the choice to actually go and learn it with other students.”

She said the team expects to add 10 more lessons to the course by November.

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