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The Hawaiian Language

Hawaiian LanguageDid you know that Hawaii has the distinction of being the only state in the United States of America to have its own native, official language? It is called the Hawaiian Language which is spoken almost exclusively on the Island of Niihau.  However, a few people are truly fluent in the Hawaiian Language on the other islands.

The Hawaiian language is a Polynesian language that takes its name from Hawaii, the largest island in the tropical North Pacific archipelago where it developed. Hawaiian, along with English, is an official language of the state of Hawaii.

When the islands became a territory of the United States, the native language was banned in schools and the number of native speakers of Hawaiian slowly decreased during the period from the 1830s to the 1950s. In no time, Hawaiian was essentially displaced by English on six of the seven inhabited islands.

As of 2001, native speakers of Hawaiian amount to under 0.1% of the statewide population. Linguists are worried about the fate of this and other endangered languages.

Recently, however, the Hawaiian language has been enjoying a gradual comeback. Classes about the language are re-integrated in schools. It is also being promoted as an important part of the Hawaiian history and culture that should be revived.

The realization of the importance of the native Hawaiian language is acknowledged by the federal government.  In fact, the Hawaiian National Park Language Correction Act of 2000 was enacted to promote the islands' native tongue. This law changed the names of several national parks in Hawaii observing the Hawaiian spelling.

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