“Dear Teacha,” the letter reads. “Wedda yo one native Pidgin speaka or one curious teacha of Pidgin speakaz, dis teacha’z guide, da website an all da adda stuff dat goes with it was put tugedda fo you.”
So begins the preface to a packet of Pidgin education materials put together by a linguistics professor and other University of Hawaii at Manoa faculty. The materials — Pidgin grammar quizzes, critical reading exercises and the like — are meant to be used by Hawaii teachers who want to teach the language in their middle and high school classrooms.
The fact that the resource even exists reflects the growing notion that Pidgin is a distinct and valid language that Hawaii schools should welcome. The packet outlines how the materials, which were published in 2010, can help teachers meet state Department of Education standards.
“As you look over dese resources, I like fo yo to tink about Pidgin as one elegant language,” the letter, written by a UH College of Education professor, continues. “Not in da high maka-maka kind sense, but in da scientific or mathematical sense. Da economy of words. Da efficiency in expression.”
But there are still those who spurn Pidgin use in formal settings, saying students who are allowed or encouraged to speak it at school are put at a disadvantage when pursuing a college degree or career.
Though experts say it’s difficult to deduce how many people speak Pidgin, world language catalogue Ethnologue estimates that nearly half of the state’s population speaks Pidgin.
Still, Pidgin advocates — many of them linguistics scholars — say the state by and large turns a blind eye to the language, ultimately leaving Pidgin-speaking students in the dark. They assert that Pidgin is a creole language that traces back to Hawaii’s rich immigrant history, a language just as valid as any other that deserves to be celebrated in classrooms.
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