Skeet Shares
stuff I find interesting
Saturday, December 30, 2006
More on Hawaiian Pidgin




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 smart
Be successful
Be one teacher
Be one doctor
Be big businessman
Communicate
Go to job interviews
Go opera or someplace elegant
Get one good education
Go mainland school
Join the military
Pray to God
Survive
Understand
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.

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6 Comments:
Blogger Allan said...
Eh, most of the stuff on that list is over-rated anyway:
-"Job interviews"
-"Join the Military"
-" ...Neiman Marcus?"
I no can do that things...

Blogger whimsicalnbrainpan said...
I see a lot of people from the South treated this way because of their accents. It is such a stupid mentalilty isn't it?

Blogger Dirk_Star said...
Wha dey say, mon?

I agree with Allan, overrated activities not worth cleaning up the language for anyway.

Blogger Allan said...
I reckon it is, y'all.

Anonymous techie said...
I use to live in Hawaii. I love pidgin and think it's great that Hawaiian's keep their culture. I don't think there's any reason why Hawaiian's should give it up. However, I personally believe that you should know how to speak proper english in addition to pidgin. Let's be honest. Pidgin really is its own language. I don't see why someone can't embrace their pidgin culture and speak proper english too. In fact, a number of the people I worked with in Hawaii did just this. They could turn off and on the pidgin depending on who they were speaking with. The reality is that I often started speaking a few things in pidgin and in some ways we met in the middle. However, being able to communicate is absolutely essential in anything you do. If I move to Italy where the national language is Italian then I expect that I need to learn Italian to communicate with people. That doesn't mean I have to leave english behind. Why not embrace both?

Really, I think most of these issues have been heavily debated in the spanish community. Would be an interesting comparison.

I think it's great that you are working to keep pidgin alive.

Blogger skeet said...
I agree, techie. Pidgen is their first language. There will be situations througout life where they will communicate better in standard English. I've used the same analogy in the past that you used. If a Spaniard wants to live and work in Germany or France, he needs to learn the language. No one would expect him to give up his first language. It's not about giving something up, it's about adding to ones communication skills. Most of them don't even realize that they are bi-lingual if they speak English and pidgin. That's a wonderful talent to have.

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