Language in Hawaii


Some facts about the Hawaiian language and about Hawaiian Creole English (also called Pidgin).

Grade Level: 
Grades 3-5
Class Time Needed: 
1 hour
Lesson Plan: 


- In 1900 there were 37,000 speakers of Hawaiian. Now there are 1,000. It is an endangered language.
- There are more speakers on Ni'ihau Island than on any others.
- Hawaiian is also called 'Olelo Hawai'i and 'Olelo Hawai'i Hakuahine
- Hawaiian is a language in the Polynesian language family. There are about 40 languages in this family including Tahitian, Samoan, Tongan, and Maori.
- These are the only letters of the alphabet used in Hawaiian:
A, E, H, I, K, L, M, N, O, P, U, W
And also one not used in English: '. This apostrophe is called 'okina and it is what linguists call a glottal stop. It's like the sound we have between the uh and the oh in the word uh oh.
- Some words borrowed from Hawaiian into English: lei, hula, luau.


- There are about 600,000 speakers of Hawaiian Creole English
- It is also called Pidgin, Hawai'i Pidgin, or HCE.
- HCE grew out of the language of communication between plantation owners and workers in Hawaii (called a pidgin) and soon became the native language of the children of those workers (called a creole). (This is one way that new languages are created. When people do not share a common language, a new language develops borrowing a lot of words from one language, but inventing from scratch all of the other parts of the language.)
- Some varieties of HCE sound very much like Standard English because it has borrowed many English words and been influenced by English. Other varieties are very different from Standard English.
- It is a fairly new language so it is only recently being used in schools and government.
- A lot of literature is now being done in Hawaiian Creole English.
- Almost half of the children in Hawaii speak only HCE before they go to school.