Creative writing contest aims to revive and sustain the Hawaiian language

On Thursday, Microsoft announced a creative writing contest focused on brand-new literary works in Hawaiian, as part of an effort to revive and sustain the language. The contest uses Microsoft Office 365 Web tools, Skype and OneDrive.

It all began two years ago, when Microsoft engineer Alex Windell, a beginning student of the native Hawaiian language, met Puakea Nogelmeier and Kapali Lyon, well-known professors at the University of Hawaii. “We spoke for many hours about strategies to revive the use of the Hawaiian language in creative writing and how technology might be able to help support this vision,” recalls Windell.

To understand the historical context, one needs to go back 80 years. At the time, the native language of Hawaiʻi was in decline. Much has changed since then, beginning with the Hawaiian Renaissance of the 1970s that led to the establishment of Hawaiian immersion schools. Hawaiian is now an official language of the State of Hawaii, and the number of speakers is rising. Students can complete their entire educational career, from preschool through college, in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi.

“After using Skype for months of otherwise-impossible planning sessions, Alex was able to create a great Web-based system for the contest,” says Dr. Nogelmeier. “The website tracks entries with a system that keeps all of our reviewers informed, streamlines the unwieldy work of reviewing each submission and allows immediate feedback to contestants about acceptance or recommendations for improvement. The contest is a fresh idea for generating new content in Hawaiian, and Alex’s participation on the Microsoft side made it possible.”

The contest is open for submissions until July 31. Authors can submit Hawaiian-language short stories or poetry. Performance videos of accepted entries are welcome too, to be judged by popular vote. An award ceremony for winners of the contest, taking place on Oʻahu, is planned for later this year. For more details, visit http://www.hawaiianliterature.com.

Jennifer Chen
Microsoft News Center Staff

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