Maui Language Institute expanding horizons


A performance by Maui Kumu Hula Kamaka Kukona and his Halau O Ka Hanu Lehua in her hometown of Niigata, Japan, changed Kaede Tada’s life.

“I fell in love with his hula, his chant. I cried. And I thought, ‘Wow, this is what I want to do,’ “ she said.

She immediately began studying with one of Kukona’s alaka’i (student leader) based in Japan. Ten months later, this 18-year-old from the Japanese countryside who didn’t know a thing about Maui arrived on our island. Besides hula, the thing she wanted to do most was learn English. At the time she knew two words — “yes” and “no.” That was 2016. Today, her English is excellent; her passion for hula has taken her to the Merrie Monarch Hula Festival three times. Next May, she’ll graduate with an Associate in Arts Degree in Hawaiian Studies. She will also advance within her halau to the level of ‘olapa (hula dancer) in 2022. These achievements are the culmination of six years of hard work and unmitigated determination.

We’re very proud that Kaede learned English at our Maui Language Institute. Welcoming international students is one of the things we’ve really missed during the last 20 months. Happily, we now have 12 new students from Brazil, Germany and Japan. The challenges they had to overcome — from visa screening delays to getting fully vaccinated against COVID to passing testing requirements and more — underscores their desires to study at UH-MC. Their return signals a most welcome “getting back to normal.”

MLI offers English as a Second Language programs for international full-time students who want to strengthen their English skills before enrolling in our credit programs. Ryan Locke and Anne Forde are our excellent, experienced, certified instructors. After students successfully complete four semesters, they may apply to any credit program we offer.

Rafael Nanes is one of the new MLI students. In 2018, he and his wife traveled to California from their native Brazil. They came to Maui, met up with old friends and in Nanes’ words, “I just fell in love with Maui.” His F-1 student visa was approved this past August and he immediately enrolled at MLI. “It’s helping me a lot with my English, especially writing and communicating. The phone is a challenge when English is your second language.

“I badly wanted to enter college,” said Nunes, who will do just that in spring 2022 when he begins our Business Administration Program. “It’s my dream to own a business.”

His wife is a chef and after he gets his degree, they’re hoping to open a restaurant.

As Nunes enters the Business Administration Program, Rafaela Muniz — also from Brazil — will graduate from that program with an Associate of Applied Science Degree.

“I’m extremely grateful to be in college right now,” she said. “At this moment we are rethinking the ways to do business, because of technology and also because of COVID. Things are going to be different.”

She believes her education will ensure she’s not left behind.

Muniz plans to apply for management positions here on Maui and priorities are clear.

“I’m looking for companies with open minds — companies that are willing to do business in different ways,” ways that are ecologically sound, reducing their carbon footprints, “taking care of the community, companies that are not just interested in profit,” she explained.

“Maui is an amazing place for that because nature has value here. We can provide and create strategies to make business in a different and healthier way.”

MLI, by the way, inspires its teachers as well as our international students. Locke was introduced to MLI in 2009 when he was a UH-MC student. He graduated in 2011 with an Associate in Arts Degree in Liberal Arts.

“My counselor suggested I volunteer as a student assistant at MLI and I loved it,” Locke said.

After a few more years of college and a couple more degrees, he returned to MLI full time in 2016. Since 2017, he’s been a lecturer in our English Department while continuing to teach at MLI.

And what’s in store for Kaede Tada? After she graduates, her kumu would like her to return to Japan and teach hula there. She hasn’t decided yet what she’s going to do. She loves hula; she also loves Maui. Her MLI teachers and the rest of us at here UH-MC believe she’s ready for anything.

For complete information about the Maui Language Institute, please visit maui.hawaii.edu/mli/. To learn more about UH-Maui College and all the programs offered, please visit maui.hawaii.edu/.

* Dr. Lui K. Hokoana is chancellor of the University of Hawaii Maui College. Ka’ana Mana’o, which means “sharing thoughts,” appears on the fourth Saturday of each month. It is prepared with assistance from UH Maui College staff and is intended to provide the community of Maui County information about opportunities available through the college at its Kahului campus and its education centers.


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