Hawaiian Immersion

Kumu ‘Ôlelo Ipolani Vaughan

The History of Kealaleo

Kealaleo is patterned after “Te Ataarangi,” a program developed in New Zealand in the late 1970’s by Katerina te Heikoko Mataira and Ngoingoi Pewhairangi, as a community-based program of Mäori language learning in which native speakers of te reo Mäori (Mäori language) were trained to be tutors.  The teaching methodology used at the elementary level was modeled on the “Silent Way” method developed by Caleb Gattegno for learning a second language that utilized manipulatives and large amounts of spoken language – in direct contrast to the grammar based, academic approaches to language learning in vogue at the time.  Te Ataarangi became one of the significant programs to address the revitalization of te reo Mäori amongst non-speaking Mäori adults.  Te Ataarangi contains its own mauri (vitality) and wairua (spirit), capturing students and increasing their love of the language.  The method embraces everyone who has a desire to speak te reo Mäori regardless of race, religion or gender.

Hawai’i’s Goals—A renaissance of interest in Hawaiian Language over the last thirty years has fostered growth in language learning, especially formal training through the university, secondary schools and immersion schools from preschool through grade 12.  Projects and individual efforts for more dispersed community education have been developed, although none have had the continuity or success of the current formal education systems.   While formal classes have proven successful at developing fluent speakers, less than one percent of the Hawaiian population and little of the general population have been engaged.

Kealaleo has the potential to become a system of instruction for those outside of the formal education systems, providing the development of useable language for the family, neighborhood, civic club, church or any other social entity where committed groups of students can be assembled.  The goal is to make an intensive learning experience that meshes into the lifestyle and community setting of the target population, and to make the regular use of Hawaiian language a comfortable reality in those settings.

Process—In January of 2004, two core groups of students engaged in introductory sessions of Te Ataarange under professional Mäori trainers, Rahera Shortland and Nikora Wharerau.  These participants were taught in Mäori, learning the methodology through the process of introduction to a new language.  Participants were asked to note their observations about the strengths of the method and potential adaptations to setting in Hawai’i.

Follow-up—Upon the completion of the required amount of sessions, all interested participants came together in a working group to re-vision Te Ataarangi and adapt the methodology as a Hawaiian learning experience.  Discussions and written observations during the sessions were used along with longer term observations of the working group.  As the Maori use of Te Ataarangi entails many differences in language form and social settings, perceived strengths of the methodology and recommended adaptations to both content and process has framed the system for audiences in Hawai’i.  All materials have been re-formed in Hawaiian rather than translated, using language that is appropriate to the culture and the setting. 

Based on the Mäori model, the working group continues to develop their teaching skills under the direction of Rahera Shortland and Nikora Wharerau.  Each member of the group has also initiated his or her own class, while continuing to train in Mäori.  As each branch class develops their strengths in both language and teaching, Kealaleo hopes to generate new tutors who then will initiate new branch classes, thus generating fluency on a geometric scale.  The development and expansion of such a system relies heavily on the commitment to the Hawaiian language and culture, to their community and to themselves.