The Hawaiian language is a Polynesian language and is related to Rapa Nui, which is spoken on Easter Island, and Maori, which is spoken in New Zealand. They are distant islands in the Pacific, but what they have in common is that they were populated by the same Polynesian settlers who planted their ancient native Asian languages and allowed each to follow its own evolutionary course.
Hawaiian, along with English, is the official language of the State of Hawaii (USA). It is an archipelago which comprises hundreds of islands. The most well-known Hawaiian word is probably “aloha,” which is used both to say both “hello” and “goodbye,” although its literal translation is “the presence of breath” (alo = presence, ha = breath). It also means “love” and/or “affection.” The existence of this language seems to have the same ambivalence as the word aloha: it is unclear whether it is going (disappearing) or coming (being revived by Hawaiians). Why? Ever since the islands were first explored by Europeans in the eighteenth century, this language immediately began to be influenced by the languages of its visitors. Even worse than this linguistic “pollution” was the drastic reduction of its speakers, the result of diseases brought by the Europeans. Further complicating the situation, the government outlawed the language in 1900 and even the natives themselves encouraged the younger generations to speak English, driving the language to extinction. The only exception was the island of Ni’ihau, which remained isolated and managed to preserve the language.
Today, luckily things have changed. Hawaiian is promoted and popularized, and is in fact one of the main charms of the island paradises, where residents can once again proudly say “aloha!” as they look toward the future.