Hawaiian Airlines has announced the start of a Hawaiian language certification program for employees. 

The airline developed the certification program in consultation with several Hawaiian language (olelo Hawaii) experts, including Larry Kimura, considered the grandfather of Hawaiian language revitalization, and Leilani Basham, a professor at the University of Hawaii -- West Oahu.

"Adding olelo Hawaii as a recognized language was a natural move for Hawaiian since the majority of our ohana was either born or raised on our islands," Jim Lynde, senior vice president of human resources at Hawaiian Airlines, said in a statement. "We believe the Hawaiian language certification will inspire and empower even more team members to share olelo Hawaii with our guests."

Any of the company's more than 7,200 employees may obtain the certification at no cost after they demonstrate advanced proficiency through an oral and reading exam. Those qualified are recognized with the Hae Hawaii (Hawaii state flag) imprinted on their nametag.

"It has been truly inspiring and gratifying to work on this certification process with Hawaiian Airlines staff and flight attendants to make the native language of Hawaii an integral part of our daily lives within our community," Basham said in the statement. "Through programs like this, Hawaiian Airlines demonstrates true respect for Hawaii's native people and practices by truly listening to, creating space for, and empowering the voices of the people."

The program was spearheaded by team members within Hawaiian's In-Flight Services department, which currently has 13 certified speakers. As more speakers are certified, they will help the company spread the use of Hawaiian language throughout operations and interactions with guests.

The olelo Hawaii certification is part of a collection of cultural initiatives at Hawaiian, such as offering complimentary, introductory Hawaiian language and hula lessons to employees. The airline also recently unveiled a Hawaiian Culture Resource Center at its Honolulu headquarters where employees and visitors may explore Hawaii's culture, language, geography and history via Native Hawaiian books, artwork and other items.

The Hawaiian language was banned in the state's classrooms in 1896, three years after the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom. In the 1970s, college students, including Kimura, and the last fluent Hawaiian-speaking elders worked together to revive the language. Their efforts at state legislature eventually led to the creation of the Hawaiian language revitalization movement.

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