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About Us

The Institute of Hawaiian Language Research and Translation (IHLRT) is a collaborative research unit established to provide access and research capacity to the extensive archive of Hawaiian language materials.  IHLRT allows all fields of scholarship in the University, for government agencies, nonprofit institutions, business entitites and the community to study the Hawaiian language materials of the 19th and early 20th centuries. While facilitating research, this new entity will provide professional training and innovative learning experiences to a new generation of translation leaders and scholars in all fields related to Hawaiʻi, its people and its history.

Mission Statement: To generate access to the resources of the Hawaiian language repository for all fields of study through research, translation and the training of a new cadre of capable resource people.

The Hawaiian Language Repository

There are extensive archival collections of government records and manuscript material, but a major focus of the IHLRT's work will be providing access to the newly-digitized Hawaiian language newspapers of the last two centuries.  Between 1834 and 1948, 125,000 pages of Hawaiian language newspapers were printed in 100 different papers, equal to over one million letter-size pages of typescript. Only a tiny fraction has ever been included in modern publication or discourse. This repository contains invaluable knowledge that has lain dormant for 100 years and up until the last decade has only been available by manually combing through reels of microfilm or handling fragile originals. New technology has made this material increasingly available and it is being investigated anew. This historical body of knowledge expands our understanding on many levels, providing a wealth of social, cultural and historical information relevant to our society today.

Though accessible, the entire cache is in the Hawaiian language. Successful language revitalization over the last 40 years has kept the Hawaiian language alive and produced nearly 20,000 speakers, but that is less than 5% of all Hawaiians and 2% of Hawaiʻi's people today with some fluency in Hawaiian. Even fluent speakers find it difficult to read and understand the unfamiliar idiom, vocabulary and historical context of Hawaiian materials from the 1800s, so only a small circle have the ability to access the archival information, few of whom have the motivation or time to do so. Only 2-3% of the newspaper repository is included in modern research and publications at present and the remainder, unfamiliar to modern Hawaiian speakers, is completely beyond the reach and awareness of the general population, including researchers and scholars at our own university.

Dynamics of Interest and Need

Digitization and web access are continually expanding public and academic awareness of these long-neglected resources. Of the 125,000 pages, some 76,000 pages have been digitized and are word-searchable to date.  There is great interest in utilizing this "new" data. There is also a growing critique of research in any Hawaiʻi-related field that does not include or acknowledge the extensive Hawaiian language record, yet access to that knowledge is nearly nonexistent. Hence, some entity is warranted to respond to current interest and to foster even more. The Institute of Hawaiian Language Research and Translation addresses this need by focusing on these four things:

  1. The surveying and cataloging of critical knowledge from within the Hawaiian language newspapers and translation of that information to inform a variety of discipline areas and community needs (to provide access for many content/discipline areas and to support community engagement).
  2. The development of new electronic and published resources drawn from the historical cache that serve both Hawaiian and English-speaking audiences (literature, language materials, cultural reference materials, topical curriculum resources, finding aids).
  3. The training and preparation of the next generation of researchers and translators (to inform teaching and learning and to generate able resource people).
  4. The documentation of the training process (to inform research on teaching, learning, mentorship, and methodology).