Kauai Stories 2

Kauai Stories 2: Unlocking the Hawaiian Language (excerpt)

Kauai Stories 2 on AmazonFrances Nelson Haliaalohanokekupuna Frazier figures it must have been divine intervention that compelled her to become involved in saving the Hawaiian language from near extinction through her skills as a translator, decades after the language had been forced underground.

On a whim, she volunteered to help one of Hawaii’s most well-respected translators type up her notes. She soon taught herself to read the Hawaiian language, eventually translating two iconic Hawaiian stories into published books: “The True Story of Kaluaikoolau as told by his wife Piilani” and “Kamehameha and his Warrior Kekuhaupio.” Breathing new life into these tales and unlocking the Hawaiian language, Frances re-established connections for herself and countless others to their Hawaiian ancestry.

Extremely modest about her accomplishments, Frances chatted about her life in 2004 when she was 89 years old, her endearing small dog Mea Liilii (small person) sitting on her lap, looking up lovingly at her.


Struck By the Beauty of the Words


The important thing is that for no apparent reason at all when I was in my mid-30s, I volunteered to type up translations for Kawena Pukui, the Hawaiian language scholar at the Bishop Museum at that time. She was translating Hawaiian olis (chants) into English but she didn’t know how to type. Reading her translations showed me that the Hawaiian language is not the language of an ignorant savage people. It is a very beautiful language, full of all sorts of wonderful things. I was struck by the beauty of the words. That’s what got me hooked.

My mother was part-Hawaiian but there was very little teaching of the Hawaiian language done in that period of time. She and Kawena belonged to the generation that was punished for speaking even one Hawaiian word in school. When Hawaii was taken over and became a territory of the United States in 1898, people who were in the government told everybody, “You’re an American. Forget you are Hawaiian. We don’t want to hear Hawaiian spoken. We only want to hear English.” They were children so they adapted.

My father, who was a ship captain with the Inter-Island Steam Navigation Company, spoke Hawaiian because his crews in those days were all Hawaiian men. He understood a great deal of Hawaiian, mainly in his maritime goings-on. He had a big Hawaiian vocabulary. I never heard him speak it. We spoke English at home.   

Read more about Frances' story in Kauai Stories 2


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