Our management team at PBS Hawaii made an easy call today. We decided to tell the producers of a national series that we won't air a particular episode unless they re-do their narration, to pronounce key Hawaiian words correctly.
The way the narrator pronounces most of the Hawaiian place-names bears little resemblance to what we should be hearing. In fact, I didn't recognize the name of a school as pronounced. When I saw the pictures, I knew the school immediately and realized just how far off the charts the narrator is.
Our programming department, led by Linda Brock, and other staffers are not Hawaiian language experts. However, we agree there doesn't even seem to have been an effort to try to get it right. For example, Hualalai is pronounced (twice) as Hula Lolly.
This is a show that came to Hawaii and didn't do its cultural homework. As a result, the show suffers a loss of credibility.
Which is too bad, because I very much like the show's subject and its storytelling. And I appreciate the producers shooting on location on an island that is sometimes overlooked. So I won't mention the name of the show, which we have been anticipating broadcasting this fall on PBS Hawaii.
It's the second time this year that PBS Hawaii has decided to hold the line, declining to air a program about Hawaii that mangles the language of our host culture. After all, we want to uphold high standards--and English AND Hawaiian are the state's official languages.
We're not perfect, either. But we believe it's important to make one's best effort--to learn phonetic basics rather than plow through Hawaiian words without a clue.
Local stations are the heart of the PBS system, and so is education. Let's hope this show decides to go back to the audio booth, to backtrack and re-track, and give all of the TV markets in which it airs the authenticity and quality that viewers deserve.
Then, we can all sit back and enjoy the show.