Hawaiian language newspapers at www.awaiaulu.org

19 12 2011

Season’s greetings to you! Joyfully, I can report that I survived transcribing my first Hawaiian newspaper page from the 1800s. I’ve put it in my pau (finished) folder and started another one.

On Nov. 28 I answered a call for volunteers to type, in simple text manuscript form, pages from old Hawaiian language newspapers so that the content can be searchable with a computer. The project, called the “ʻIke Kūʻōkoʻa Initiative,” is seeking 200,000 volunteer hours. More than 100 Hawaiian language newspapers were published between 1834 and 1948.

Here I share my experience and tips for you if you want to try. If you have heard about this project and are anxious to help, please visit www.awaiaulu.org  and hear the welcoming invitation from Kaui Sai-Dudoit and Puakea Nogelmeier. If you sign on and decide later it’s not for you, you can always cancel.

Although it’s true that one doesn’t need to speak Hawaiian to type it, it is an advantage. In addition, good eyesight, squinting, accurate typing copyreading skills, and time = Success.

I do not speak Hawaiian. I am not fluent in the language.  I haven’t learned all the little words and parts of speech that one of my early teachers said were so important. Although I might not know what the words mean, I know what written Hawaiian looks like. I can pronounce and hear it in my head. With my Pukui-Elbert Hawaiian dictionary in hand I can figure out the gist of a paragraph.

(My Hawaiian dictionary and Place Names of Hawaii, both from University of Hawaii Press, are my standard editing tools.)

Hawaiian words are not foreign to me, as they are all around me. Hawaiian music lyrics, Hawaiian language class in the 8th grade at Kamehameha Schools, several attempts at formal language classes as an adult, my citizenship in Ka Lāhui Hawaiʻi, and membership in the Ko‘olauloa Hawaiian Civic Club are how I’ve become familiar with Hawaiian.

My most recent exposure was with Nā Kamalei-Koʻolauloa Early Education Project. I was hired to design and later direct the creation of 20 bilingual children’s books in Hawaiian and English. I worked with translators Kama Hopkins and Lono ‘Ikuwā — both excellent teachers besides . . . Mahalo! — and painstakingly copy-read every single character, ʻokina and kahakō (what typesetters refer to as a “single open quote” and a “macron.”) Long linguistic discussions with authors and Native Hawaiians of the community were enlightening.

I cut my teeth as a newswoman on hot type (before the advent of the desktop computer) in the late Sixties and early Seventies at Ka Leo o Hawaii and the Honolulu Advertiser, then read galley proofs from Hawaii Hochi during many years with the Office of University Relations at UH Mānoa. That gave me an understanding and appreciation for setting lead type by hand, upside down and backwards! I recall that a professional typesetter (not me!) commanded $50 an hour in those days for speed and accuracy.

These are additional reasons why I am excited to contribute some of my time for the current Hawaiian newspaper project.

In the end, I took 12 or so hours over three weeks that included two extensions to finish my first page. Originally the planners hoped a typist would take only 1 week to complete a page. (Another volunteer’s strategy was to transcribe one of 6 columns per day, then proofread on the seventh day.)

On one side of my computer screen is the scanned graphic of a page reserved for me. I enlarge this. On the other side is a blank text document to type into — exactly what I see. No need to correct errors or type accent marks because, except for the apostrophe, they were not used. If I cannot decipher a character, or if it is obscured for a reason, typing “@” alerts whoever reads the transcription next.

When I examine the typeface enough to tell the difference between a “u” and an “n”, or a “1” and an “l”, or a “3” and a “5”, it’s smooth sailing. But only for one hour at a time. After that I can’t “see” it any more.

Sometimes, if I’m not sure of the spelling of a word because I can’t make it out completely, I will check my dictionary; if it’s there and makes sense, I’ll put it in. Sometimes that word I can’t make out appears later in the columns, and I verify in that way.

Then I go back to check my work, and sure enough I find some typos. After the first couple of weeks, it looks like the project understood the need to grant extensions. So, if your experience is like mine, don’t fret!

To be more encouraging, let me say it is a very interesting activity to see what people were reading in those days. My first page contained a poem “The Beautiful Snow” (English title) followed by Hawaiian verse, a lyrical and sensual description of snow in seven verses (2/3 column); a Sunday school lesson; price lists for bibles.

My second page reports who bought and sold or rented how many acres of what land on what island for what amount. You can learn Hawaiian vocabulary and see what words had fallen into disuse and are being resurrected with this project.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to assist and learn, and I hope I’m doing a good enough job for the project. I want my comments to be encouraging and to give interested transcribers a “heads up” about what to expect. I hope anyone who has an interest will volunteer for this worthwhile effort.

Copyright 2011 Rebekah Luke



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