Hundreds gather for first of 15 free Hawaiian language classes at UH

Hundreds gather for first of 15 free Hawaiian language classes at UH
Hundreds turned out for a free Hawaiian language class at UH-Manoa on Thursday. (Source: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - When student government leader Raiyan Rafid helped organize free Hawaiian language classes on the UH-Manoa campus, he wasn’t sure if anyone would show up. But on Wednesday, 300 students, professors and others crowded in for the first lesson.

“This is really a great feeling for me because we thought that there was going to be like 20 to 30 people,” said Rafid, vice president of the Associated Students of the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

It was the first of 15 free weekly, non-credit Hawaiian language classes hosted by ASUH, the undergraduate student government on campus.

The class was originally supposed to be held in a conference room at Campus Center, but the turnout prompted organizers to change venues to the ballroom to accommodate everyone.

Rafid introduced the concept of the course through a bill, which appropriated funding for the Olelo Hawaii initiative. The course is in partnership with the Hawaiinuiakea School of Hawaiian Knowledge.

He said that the goal of the classes is to preserve the Hawaiian language.

“When they leave the room everyday, they should learn how to say something,” said Paige Okamura, a graduate student and co-instructor of the course.

“And that they’re able to apply it into a broader sense of understanding where we are, or where they come from if they’re from Hawaiʻi.”

Okamura added that language “holds all of our cultural identity in there as well,” and hopes that it breaks down barriers and helps people understand it a little more.

Okamura and co-instructor Akea Kahikina, who is also a graduate student, taught basic conversational phrases and allowed participants to practice with each other.

“The fact that students are the ones running it, there’s really less pressure, there’s a more push because you’re actually with people that you can relate to,” Kahikina said.

All classes are free to UH Mānoa students, faculty, staff, alumni and the public. No registration is required.

Classes will be held on Wednesdays from 3-4 p.m in the Campus Center Ballroom until further notice.

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