UH Maui teacher uses online game to teach Olelo Hawaii


Wordle online game is a popular successinspiring various spin-offs, including a new version produced locally in Olelo Hawaii.

This Hawaiian-language version, called “Hulihua” was created by Keola Donaghy, assistant professor of music at the University of Hawaii Maui College. It released the game this month as part of Mahina Olelo Hawaii, an annual celebration of Hawaiian language use.

Donaghy also worked at UH Hilo College of Hawaiian Language as a technology coordinator, and he’s been involved in other IT projects, including working with Apple, Microsoft, and Google to make it easier for speakers and learners of Hawaiian. Technology.

A University of Hawaii professor has developed a local version of Wordle aimed at teaching players the Hawaiian language. Screenshot Wordle/2022

But Donaghy became interested in the Hawaiian language through music, he said, which led him to practice it repeatedly in songs. Thirty years later, he says, it’s his life’s work. He hopes the Wordle game will encourage people to learn the language and expand their Hawaiian vocabulary.

He was inspired to create the Olelo Hawaii version when he played a Maori version of the game. He then worked on the idea with his colleague Noelani Arista from McGill University in Canada, who directed him to a open source code that could be edited and adapted for its version of the game.

This open-source version of Wordle, which Donaghy used for Hulihua, was created by Hannah Park and then modified by Adian Pine, a linguist and software developer from British Columbia. Pine’s work, Donaghy said, made it easy to create localized versions of Wordle for any language.

“Wordle only started to take off at the beginning of this year,” Donaghy said, and Mahina Olelo Hawaii provided a perfect opportunity to launch localized play.

Hulihua has a list of the 400 most commonly used words in Olelo Hawaii, Donaghy said. He chose this list because he said UH students typically learn 500-600 words per semester, including those in-game.

While working on developing the game, Donaghy said he first identified all the five-letter words he knew and then started adding more, such as Hawaiian-language books, such than “The Story of Kekūhaupiʻo”.

In the game Wordle, created by Josh Wardle, players have six attempts to guess a five-letter word. Hints are given for each guess when the letters match or occupy the correct position in the word of the day.

If the game remains popular, Donaghy said, he will consider adding more words, some of which he added “don’t even show up in dictionaries or text.”

For now, he is happy that the game is gaining popularity.

“I’m really happy that people find it helpful and useful. I love seeing friends share results and frustrations,” Donaghy said.


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