My Hawaiian Language Study Plan

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If you’ve ever visited Hawai’i (or even thought about checking it out) the thought of learning the Hawaiian language may have crossed your mind. Especially after seeing all the street signs, neighborhood names and buildings with Hawaiian names.

When I start a language learning project I typically follow a fairly specific plan. Learning Hawaiian is definitely no different. I already talked about the challenges of learning Hawaiian so this language learning adventure is going to be unique in many ways.

If you’ve ever thought about learning a new language – especially Hawaiian – then you may find this post particularly interesting. I’m going to break down my initial plan to study the Hawaiian language.

And even if you are planning to learn a different language, I think this framework may still help you. And, if nothing else it will be entertaining to see how I struggle over the next year or three to learn a language with limited resources.

Feel free to adapt this plan for your own purposes. Or copy it directly if you want to learn Hawaiian yourself. Hopefully, you will be able to follow along and learn from the many mistakes and errors that I’m undoubtedly going to be making. 🙂

So, without further delay, let’s go!

My plan to learn Hawaiian

This plan basically boils down to the idea of dramatically increasing both my active and passive exposure to Hawaiian and optimizing my schedule to take advantage of the various points of contact I have with the language.

I’ve noticed that when a lot of people start to learn a language they just use one source material. Whether that is a class or a book or a tape series or a teacher, they stick with what they have in an effort not to confuse themselves.

I get it.

The fear of overwhelm is very strong when learning something new. But you can think of it in a different way too.

Increasing Points of Exposure

There was an article (a billion years ago) that talked about learning languages as an effort to multiply your exposure. In the article, it specifically talked about working to go from a 1x level to an 8x level.

For example, if you’re taking a class, then increasing the intensity would be adding on supplemental activities that either actively or passively reinforce the language. These could be things like:

  • Watching TV in the language
  • Listening to music in the language
  • Learning songs in the language
  • Reading manga or cartoons
  • Reading books
  • Having a conversation partner
  • Writing poems or songs or creative works
  • Going to language-focused meetups
  • Watching movies or documentaries at film festivals
  • Studying a skill or art form in the language.

And the list goes on and on.

For me, I have several up-leveling exposure methods I’m going to employ. Plus I will add on more as they become available.

So, here is my initial plan to increase my contact with the Hawaiian Language:

Take a Hawaiian Language class

Since I work at Kapi’olani Community College, I signed up for Hawaiian 101 to provide a solid introduction to the fundamentals of the language. It is also to help me utilize the resources that are right in my vicinity at work.

Believe it or not, the language class is an online class (which I’m currently waitlisted for). At first glance, I thought an online language class wouldn’t work, but then I spoke with the teacher of the class.

It turns out that the work required in the language is higher than an in-person class. Instead of getting called on maybe once in a class, you’re being asked to regularly produce videos and materials for the teacher to review. I like the idea of being active in my study, so this really appeals to me.

I’ll definitely be sharing the details of the class in upcoming posts, vlogs and a potential podcast (in the works). So stay tuned!

Study a Hawaiian Language Book and Audio course

I purchased a book this past year that is a self-study course on Hawaiian and includes audio recordings and practices. I like the idea of being able to listen along and practice speaking in a self-guided environment. This is great to fine-tuning pronunciation. Coincidentally, the book is written by one of the teachers at my school!

Utilize Online Resources

I have a growing list of online resources to study the Hawaiian language, which I will be sharing here on the site in the following weeks and months. These range from online Hawaiian language dictionaries to entire study courses that people have put up on the web.

Online and Offline Videos

There are a good (albeit, not too vast) and growing collection of videos on YouTube of people speaking the Hawaiian language. I’m going to keep finding them, linking to them, and studying them to add to my resource library. I have a specific method for studying videos for language acquisition, which I’ll share in a later post.

Plus, Moana in Hawaiian is now coming out on DVD or BluRay so I’ll be able to watch that too! 🙂

Passive Listening

This is essential for having Hawaiian always in my ears. While I’m working, driving, or just hanging out at home, I’ll be collecting Hawaiian music, speech and audio files to have constantly played in the background. This isn’t an “active” method of study, but it is helpful to build an ear for the language and become accustomed to hearing the sounds.

Flashcards for Vocabulary and Grammar

I’m a big fan of SRS (Spaced Repetition System) flash cards (such as Anki) and I’ll be using them to drill new words and grammar into my long-term memory as fast as I can.

I’ll also be making use of memory techniques such as memory palaces or mnemonics, in order to help me learn things quickly.

Work with a Conversation Partner

I actually have one or two friends who are fluent in Hawaiian. My plan is to try to meet with them on a regular basis to learn the language. But, I should mention that I have a very specific method when I meet with conversation partners. I’ll be sharing the details of that method, but let’s just say that it is really effective in the acquisition of daily-use and common phrases that I will need to know. All for a minimum of time investment too.

Develop Hawaiian for Learning Hawaiian

One of the keys to my method of language learning is to develop Hawaiian that I can use in the study of the Hawaiian language. There are a dozen or two phrases that, if you learn them right off the bat, it allows you to actually speak Hawaiian in order to learn Hawaiian.

I know that sounds weird, but trust me — it’s pretty neat. I’ll definitely share more in a future post.

Okay, so there we have 8 specific ways I’m going to increase my exposure to the Hawaiian Language. Next, let’s talk about the specific methods of learning that I’m going to employ.

Methods for Learning a Language

As you’ve noticed, my plan basically boils down to constant, daily exposure to Hawaiian. And, as I’ve mentioned, this means being both active and passive in my approach.

Here I’m going to look at the six different methods of studying a language. Three of them are input-oriented. Two of them are output-oriented. And the last is sort of a combination of the two.

Listening (Input)

With listening, there is active and passive listening. For my active listening, this requires being focused on what I’m hearing, and I’ll utilize this during my active study sessions. There are things you can do while active listening to increase proficiency in the language. Such as mimicking the intonation of native speakers, or identifying the specific phrasal and word groupings or speech patterns you’re hearing. It can be mentally tiring, but it is definitely helpful.

The passive listening can be done pretty much anytime I’m doing anything else.  As I mentioned above, is about increasing exposure to the language. My plan is to listen to audio recordings (music, speech, conversations, from videos, etc.) while working at my desk, driving in the car, or doing chores around the house.

Reading (Input)

Of course, there really isn’t any such thing as “passive” reading, so this is something you have to do while focused on the task at hand. It is really more about the materials you have and giving yourself a variety of input sources and genres of books or articles.

Fortunately, there are one or two bookstores here in Hawaii that specialize in materials in the Hawaiian language. This is going to be great to pick up some fiction in Hawaiian that I can just read to enjoy the story.

Plus, through my class, self-study materials and online articles, there are other opportunities to read Hawaiian during my study times.

This is a skill that becomes easier to do the more exposure you have, so I imagine it will be challenging at first.

Watching (Input)

Again, this is an input type of exposure. I plan to watch videos, movies and TV shows that are available in the Hawaiian language. There are a lot of resources on YouTube as well as through local libraries (like the one where I work). The bookstore I mentioned before also has some video materials that may work.

Watching isn’t just about learning the language though. It is about learning the non-verbal elements of Hawaiian. Body language. Facial expressions. How people walk and carry themselves. You can actually learn to infuse the physical characteristics of the culture and language and this has an impact on your overall fluency.

I know … it sounds weird. But trust me. It actually works.

Speaking (Output)

You’ll notice that I didn’t write “recitation” of Hawaiian. Speaking isn’t just regurgitating out the same words you heard in the same order. It is an active skill of actually creating the language on your own. Using your mind to connect the dots and generate ideas through this new language using whatever words you know.

The key to speaking is to not worry about mistakes. Just speak. Mistakes are the language’s way of helping you learn faster. Each is a gift and an opportunity to become better. Sure, it can be embarrassing. But not nearly as embarrassing as studying a language for 2 years and not being able to say more than a couple words.

The people who improve the quickest with a new language are those who don’t fear mistakes and just use the language as much as possible. This is one of the keys to fluency and language acquisition.

Writing (Output)

Once I have developed an initial, basic vocabulary, I’ll start writing my ideas and thoughts in a “journal”. Being able to produce the language in written form is much different than doing it with your voice.

While speaking a language is an in-the-moment activity that requires a very focused energy, with writing you have more time to construct complete thoughts and sentences and look certain things up. If you do it the right way, you can use writing to really enhance your use of a language.

Memorization (Input/Output)

The reason this is both input and output is that it isnʻt just dumping words and phrases into your brain. You’re actually trying to spit them out again on command.

I’ve mentioned before about some of the memorization techniques I’ll be using. But this is definitely one of the big parts of learning a new language and I’ll be taking on my memorization efforts with full force.

This means not just memorizing the words you have to for a class, but working to learn all the words that you will need to use to live a life with the language.

So, now that we know both how I’m going to increase my exposure to Hawaiian, and we know what my methods for studying the language will entail, let’s see how I’m going to fit this all into my day.

My schedule for studying the Hawaiian Language

So, before getting into the details, I should mention that my day is by no means empty. Here are a few of the things currently going on in my day:

  • A full-time job (40 hours/week)
  • A part-time job (12 – 13 hours/week)
  • A volunteer job (5 hours/week)
  • Another volunteer job (2 – 5 hours/week)
  • Occasional wushu coaching (2 hours/week)
  • Part-time student (6 credits at UHWO = 10 hours / week)
  • This blog (5 – 10 hours/week)
  • Learning ‘Ukulele (5 – 10 hours/week)

If you’re doing the math, then you see that all adds up to between 80 and 95 hours a week. If you tack on sleeping, exercising, eating and relaxing my brain, you get a pretty full week.

Of course, being “too busy” is not an excuse if something is a priority. The challenge, then, is figuring out how to optimize your time to be as efficient as possible. And with language learning, that means developing a consistent, regular and focused practice.

In other words, I’m not going “all out” with my language study, because that would lead to some major burnout and stress. I’m finding a happy medium where I can study and learn and practice without hurting my health and happiness.

Here is how I’m going to break up my day and week to accommodate the various exposures and methods of study for Hawaiian:

  • Class: 90 minutes / day
    • I will study a minimum of 90 minutes/day to keep up with the course. If I can do more, that’s fine. But 90 minutes is my minimum.
  • Flash Cards / Memorization: 15 – 30 minutes x 3 / day + 90 minutes once a week.
    • I will review my cards 3 times/day for 15 – 30 minutes, typically first thing in the morning, once in the afternoon, and once before going to bed. In my experience, this is an effective rate to memorize.
    • I will also spend around 90 minutes once a week to create new flashcards to add to my deck.
  • Passive Listening: All day long
    • I will have something playing in my ear pretty much all day. The only times I won’t do it is during meetings or conversations with other people. But if I’m working or studying or driving I will have Hawaiian on tap.
  • Conversation Partner: 30 minutes, 1x/week
    • These are topic-based conversation practice sessions to help me learn specific vocabulary and phrases that I will reinforce during the following week’s time. This might have to wait until I have someone who is available, but eventually, it will happen. My goal is to get it going sometime in February.
  • Watching (Videos): 10 minutes / day + 60 minutes 1x / week
    • I will utilize my repeated video watching study system once per week and then utilize that for daily rotations of 3 – 5-minute clips for 10 minutes each day. (This will make more sense when I share what that actually looks like in a later post.)
  • Speaking / Language Creation: All Day Long
    • This is essentially me speaking to myself. I actually learned this from my mom from when she was learning to speak English. It is a method to use what you know in the language to form ideas, thoughts, and conversations with things and objects around you in your daily life.
    • Besides the speaking part, this also includes thinking actively in the language and trying to create an inner dialogue in Hawaiian as you go about your day.

So, if you look at the daily time totals, it actually isn’t too bad. The “active” learning is really just 90 minutes of class study and another 30 – 45 minutes of my own study. And then once a week have a deeper study session of around 3 hours.

But even with this seemingly minor time commitment, I’m able to have almost 80% of my day filled up with exposure to (or practice of) Hawaiian.

I’m actually really looking forward to getting started on this. But I’m even more excited about refining the process down further so that I can see which parts work and which parts could work better. #iterationsFTW

Tracking my Progress and a Summary of My Plan

Of course, as you already know, I will be sharing my progress with all of you.

On my YouTube channel I will be posting videos at various points along this journey.

Here is a video showing the starting point of my journey with Hawaiian.

I will be posting regular videos showing my progress updates at week 2, 4, 6, 8 and at months 3, 4, 6, 9 and 12 (1 year). Be sure to subscribe to the channel so you can keep in the loop.

So to sum up, here is what I’ll be doing to learn Hawaiian:

  1. Taking Hawaiian 101 at Kapi’olani Community College during the Spring 2019 semester.
  2. Independent study of Hawaiian with my own books and audio materials
  3. Conversation practice to increase fluency and active abilities
  4. Daily passive exposure to the language
  5. A program of memorization
  6. Watching videos and studying non-verbal forms of Hawaiian communication

And, of course, you’ll be able to watch my progress all along the way!

Be sure to sign up for my Walker newsletter using the form below so you can stay up to date with the latest on my Hawaiian Walkabout. And of course, you can follow me on Instagram @walktheplanet_9 and through my YouTube Channel. I’m also thinking about starting up a podcast, so if you see a link to that on the navigation bar at the top of the page be sure to subscribe and check it out!

Until next time … See you on the road!


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