Pidgin: the Voice of Hawai'i

The impact of "English only" policies on students' learning and self esteem
by
Year Released
2009
Film Length(s)
57 mins
Remote video URL

Introduction

What if you are made to feel ashamed when you speak your “mother tongue” or ridiculed because of your accent? Pidgin: the Voice of Hawaii addresses these questions through its lively examination of Pidgin - the language spoken by over half of Hawai’i’s people.

Featured review

This film poignantly explains how language creates a sense of belonging in a society pressured to conform to the dominance of English. It is essential viewing for language educators, parents, and college students, especially in linguistics and Asian-Pacific Studies.
Christina M. Higgins
Associate Professor, Second Language Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Synopsis

This film is a joyful celebration of the history and endurance of Hawaiian Pidgin that blends the traditional Hawaiian language with the English of the missionaries and plantation masters, along with a bit of Cantonese, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, and Tagalog, and the all-purpose idiom, “da kine.” Despite occasional efforts to purge it from schools—it's long been considered a language of social inferiors and gangs, with the potential to lower school test scores and hamper job seekers—Pidgin (declared an official language by the U.S. Census Bureau) persists in the island state's multiethnic society. Pidgin has its champions such as writer and occasional rapper Lee Tonouchi, author of the seminal literary work Da Word, who stages his wedding in Pidgin (not an easy achievement), as well as a collective of enthusiasts known as Da Pidgin Coup, and a duo attempting to translate the Bible into Pidgin (the New Testament equals “Da Jesus Book”).

Reviews

A must-see for any class or workshop investigating the intersection of culture, identity, and language. This documentary gives voice to the very people whose voices we rarely hear.
Lei-Anne Ellis
Department of Human Services, City of Cambridge, Massachusetts
This joyful film is a thoughtful, well-researched work on identity, everyday life, and speaking one's mind in one's own tongue.
Filmmaker Magazine
Filmmaker Magazine
An irresistible upbeat tone (with just the slightest undercurrent of prideful defiance) prevails in filmmakers Marlene Booth and Kanalu Young's joyful celebration of the Hawaiian tongue that blends the traditional tribal dialect with the English of the missionaries and plantation masters, along with a bit of Cantonese and Tagalog, and the all-purpose idiom, da kine. Pidgin has its champions—duly interviewed here, with subtitles—such as writer and occasional rapper Lee Tonouchi, author of the seminal literary work Da Word, who stages his wedding in Pidgin (not an easy achievement), as well as a collective of enthusiasts known as, yes, Da Pidgin Coup, and a duo attempting to translate the Bible into Pidgin (the New Testament equals Da Jesus Book). Highly recommended.
Charles Cassady
Charles Cassady

Awards and Screenings

Grand Jury Prize & Best Human Rights Film, Honolulu Film Awards, 2010

Promotional Material

Promotional Stills

Opens in new window