Your response to my post about Hawaiian Pidgin
has been very gratifying. So many of you posted comments, and I know from my stats that quite a few other people read but did not comment. Mahalo for the boost in confidence. As a new blogger I’m never quite sure that what I’m offering will be well-received. It’s a validating experience to know that I've captured someone's interest.
Writing that piece and seeing your reaction has given my own interest a shot in the arm. I’ve been re-reading some books by Lee Tonouchi,
who has named himself Da Pidgin Guerrilla. He has probably done more single-handedly than anyone alive to promote Hawaiian pidgin and its acceptance as a part of the culture to be celebrated rather than derided. In Living Pidgin: Contemplations on Pidgin Culture
, Lee relates an experience he had in the Fall of 2001 with a group of students in one of his classes. He asked the students to tell him what they cannot do with pidgin. How would it hold them back in life? The students had two minutes to brainstorm and a list of their collective thoughts was compiled. The list of answers includes the following:
Dey say if you talk pidgin you no can:
Be one teacher
Be one doctor
Be big businessman
Go to job interviews
Go opera or someplace elegant
Get one good education
Go mainland school
Join the military
Pray to God
Work at Neiman Marcus
Dey say if you talk pidgin
You no can
The total list includes fifty-nine items, all thought of within two minutes
Keep in mind that most of these kids were not told specifically that they couldn’t be a doctor or work at a high-class department store. These things are the perceptions they’ve developed from the negative reactions they’ve experienced when they talk pidgin.
How tragic is it that kids are being raised to believe that they can’t measure up unless they give up an integral part of who they are?
You can find several books by Lee Tonouchi listed on Amazon
if you’re interested in learning more. He is a brilliant man. He is not a second-class citizen. He knows that he can do and be whatever he wants in this life. He knows that he can do it without giving up his cultural inheritance. I hope that he and others with similar drive and imagination can communicate this to the pidgin-speaking population of Hawaii. It will be devastating to our beautiful paradise if they can’t.
Labels: military history, pidgin