Hundreds attend first free Hawaiian language class in Oahu

HONOLULU — More than 300 students, professors and others have attended the first free Hawaiian language class offered on the University of Hawaii Manoa campus on Oahu, student leaders said.

Student government leader Raiyan Rafid helped organize the first of 15 free weekly non-credit classes aimed at preserving the Hawaiian language, Hawaii News Now reported Thursday.

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

The class was supposed to be held in a conference room, but the expected turnout prompted a change in venues to accommodate more people, university officials said.

Rafid introduced the idea for the course through a bill, which appropriated funding for the Olelo Hawaii initiative.

The course is held in partnership with the Hawaiinuiakea School of Hawaiian Knowledge, he said.

“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 Hawaii.”

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

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“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.

Classes are free to University of Hawaii Manoa students, faculty, staff, alumni and the public, leaders said. No registration is required.

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