Despite the fact that Hawaii has two official languages, only one of them is offered on voters’ ballots. English and Hawaiian are the state’s official languages, and lawmakers are pushing a bill to offer both on ballots. Right now, English, Japanese, Cantonese and Ilocano must be offered on ballots in some counties. “I thought it was a little silly that we don’t already have the Hawaiian language on the ballot – it’s an official language,” said Rep. Kaniela Ing, who introduced the bill.
Ing said he’s pushing the bill to promote the everyday use of Hawaiian language. He says right now, people often only see the added academic or cultural value to learn Hawaiian. Instead, he wants to make it a “functional” language and promote Hawaiian culture.
“We’re moving toward making it something that’s closer to English and not just a foreign language,” he said.
Hawaiian became an official state language in 1978, and supporters say the proposed bill helps recognize its importance. The language almost became extinct after the United States banned it from being taught in schools prior to annexation in 1898.