Languages Spoken in Hawaii
Hawaii is the only U.S. state that is located outside of North America. It is well known for its incredible beaches with black, red, and pink sand, and its 137 volcanic islands. Eight of these islands hold the majority of Hawaii’s population of over 1.4 million residents, making it one of the most densely populated American states.
Hawaii has a rich history, with the first recorded contact with the British in 1778 beginning an influx of merchants, businessmen, and explorers. These travelers not only brought European goods to the islands but also their languages and ways of life, including plantations.
Between the mid-1800s to the 1950s, the native speakers of the Hawaiian language decreased from 500,000 people to almost zero, due to the institutional suppression of the native culture. It was replaced by the English language in schools, business, and government, and Hawaiian was later declared an endangered language by linguists.
In recent years, Hawaiian has been promoted and given attention again, with Hawaiian immersion schools and federal programs raising awareness and increasing the number of its speakers. Although promising, the number of native speakers of Hawaiian is still less than 0.1 percent of the population on six of the seven islands.
Today, the official languages of Hawaii are English and Hawaiian, and it is common to hear a creole language mix of English and Hawaiian (Hawaii Creole English, HCE) from residents of the islands. HCE is considered a dialect of English by many linguists.
Hawaii is a multicultural state, with an incredible tapestry of cultures and languages, embodying the “melting pot” mentality of the United States. There has been a significant influx of immigrants onto the Hawaiian islands due to its tropical climate and beauty, especially in Honolulu, the state’s capital city. Ranking high in livability, this city has a population that is nearly 50% of Asian descent, with most of those people being immigrants from Japan. There is also a large Filipino community, and one of the most popular areas of Honolulu’s historic downtown area is Chinatown.
The most popular languages besides English and Hawaiian that are found in this state are:
There are also many immigrants in Hawaii that are of European descent, and their families are keeping their native languages alive. The most common of these European languages include:
When visiting the state of Hawaii, you will not only have the privilege of experiencing traditional Hawaiian customs and languages, but you will also encounter a vibrant, eclectic multicultural tapestry of people from all over the world.