Technology and the Revival of the Hawaiian Language

David Hartle-Schutte
Kahealani Nae'ole-Wong

Note: After reading this article, please visit the transcript of the discussion forum to view readers' comments.


The Hawaiian language, on the verge of extinction as a spoken language, has been revived through a combination of teaching ancient Hawaiian culture and traditions and the extensive incorporation of modern technology. Through private Hawaiian language immersion preschools and Hawaiian Language Immersion programs in public elementary and secondary schools, many children in Hawaii are becoming fluent users of Hawaiian. These programs emphasize traditional songs, chants, and materials, but also rely heavily on modern technology to enhance the students' language development. Using a variety of computer programs and Hawaiian language computer networks, teachers and students are able to develop Hawaiian language materials, communicate with other Hawaiian writers and speakers through e-mail, and create archives of individual and group work. Through the blending of the old and the new, tremendous progress has been made toward the revival of this ancient language.

Notes Concerning Hawaiian Orthography

The Hawaiian language has two unique characters: the okina (a glottal stop), which appears as a reversed apostrophe, and the kahako (macron). This article may be viewed using the ordinary fonts available on your own computer and browser. The okina characters have been replaced with apostrophes (for example, "Hawai'i"). However, the kahako character will not display correctly, appearing as an umlaut (two dots over a single vowel) rather than a solid bar. If you wish to view this article with totally accurate orthography, you may download Hawaiian fonts to your computer. This will take some time and requires some knowledge about how to add fonts to your particular equipment. You also may have to quit the browser application (Netscape or Explorer) and then open it again to get the font to work. Alternatively, you could view the article with incorrect orthography first, then download the fonts at a later time to experience turning your computer into a Hawaiian language machine! Many of the visual examples provided in this article and the Slide Show Overview have screen images with the correct orthography represented, so that you can compare the correct orthography to what is viewed with ordinary fonts.

Link to the Hawaiian fonts download

To continue with the article, choose the topic of most interest to you from the contents listing and follow the link. The topics are arranged in the preferred order, but because they are all linked to one another, you can explore them in your own sequence.

 Technology's Role in the Revival of the Hawaiian Language

Slide Show Overview

(a visual summary with slower access)

  Brief History of the Use of the Hawaiian Language in Schools

The Use of Technology by Teachers

The Use of Technology by Students

 Technology Beyond the Classroom

 Technology in the Future


Author Information

David Hartle-Schutte (e-mail: teaches in the Department of Language, Reading & Culture in the College of Education at the University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, USA.

Kahealani Nae'ole-Wong (e-mail: is a technology coordinator at Keaukaha Elementary School in Hilo, Hawaii, USA.

Reading Online,
Posted May 1998
© 1998-2000 International Reading Association, Inc. ISSN 1096-1232