As a student of Polynesian dance arts, I was excited when Duolingo launched Hawaiian on their language platform. Duolingo helps teach endangered languages such as Hawaiian and Navajo. Immersive learning is the best way to learn a language, but not everyone can travel. Duolingo is a great alternative and a way to learn at home when you’re not in Hawaii. As of today, July 5, 2021, if you live on the mainland, it’s a bit challenging to visit the islands with the Covid-19 restrictions.
I love many Hawaiian songs that I use for dance. These include Ipo Lei Momi, Wahine ‘Ilikea, and many, many more. These songs are song in Hawaiian. Of course, before choreographing or learning any dance to a particular song, I always find out the translation. If you don’t speak the language, the translation research gets a bit taxing. That’s why I’ve decided to learn to speak Hawaiian.
This is me taking a Duolingo placement test for Hawaiian skill level.
I still plan on song research even after I improve my Hawaiian language skill set. The fun part of researching songs, in particular older songs, is discovering the history of it. I’ve learned many things from looking up classics such as Liliu’e and ‘O Lanakila ke Ka’a Ahi Ali’i.
If you dance or listen to music outside of your personal culture or if you are doing a cultural dance/music project as an homage to your own heritage, make sure you put in the extra steps and study the particular songs. You will discover hidden historical gems. For instance, prior to a performance of ‘O Lanakila ke Ka’a Ahi Ali’i, I discovered that this Kahiko chant is one of three very prominent train dances. If you trains, this is a fun tidbit of American/Hawaiian history. Many people will find the history of the Hawaiian Railway Society fascinating.
Once you start learning one language, other languages will become easier to understand. Learning other languages for dancers is helpful for travel and soulful growth. Until next time, a hui hou kakou!