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Knowledge of a second language encourages deeper awareness of the structure of language and its relation to thought. It develops sensitivity to other ways of ordering personal experience and social institutions, provides a direct way of comparing another culture to one’s own, and provides insight into the workings of one’s native language.
In addition to improving written and oral communication and reasoning skills, proficiency in Hawaiian or a second language (HSL) is an integral part of the university’s mission to “prepare students to function effectively in a global society,” to “preserve and promulgate Hawaiian, Asian, and Pacific language, history, and culture and [to] provide students an education experience with an international dimension” (The University of Hawai’i Strategic Plan 1996-2001: “Goals,” sec. 111, C: p. 5; “Action Strategies,” sec. V, 2; p. 9).

The Hawaiian or Second Language (H/SL) requirement varies by UHM college/school.

Before graduation, students must show competence at the 202 (or equivalent) level in Hawaiian or a second language by doing one of the following in accordance with their college/school:
  • Completing a four-semester sequence (usually 101, 102, 201, and 202) in a single language.
  • Demonstrating competence by taking a UH Mānoa language-competency exam if one is offered. Check with the language department in question.
  • Receiving a language-requirement waiver by demonstrating 202-level second language competency. For example, waivers may be given to students who are native speakers of a language other than English. Contact an academic advisor in your college/school for further information.


Important Note:
 The Hawaiian or Second Language requirement has been modified or waived for students in the following schools and colleges: Shidler College of Business; College of Education; College of Engineering; John A. Burns School of Medicine; School of Nursing and Dental Hygiene; School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology; Myron B. Thompson School of Social Work; College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources. Students in these colleges/schools should consult a college/school advisor.

Students should be aware that changing their major may involve a change in their college/school and thus change their Hawaiian or Second Language requirement. A list of majors and their respective colleges/schools can be found in the Degrees section.

Back Credits for Previous Language Experience

All students (including native speakers of a language) with experience in another language other than English may earn “back credits.” These students may take any UHM language course, appropriate to their level, in which there is significant use of that language. “Appropriate level” of a language will be determined by placement exam, department policy and/or the department’s director or advisor. “Significant use” of a language will be determined by the course content. Upon completion of this course, if students earn a letter grade of C (not C-) or better, they may receive between 3-16 back credits. Hawaiian language back credits are earned according to specific program policies. Please see the Director of Kawaihuelani Center for Hawaiian Language for more information. UH Academic Policy M5.403 (Hawaiian/Second Language Back Credits) is posted online here.

Languages in which a Four-semester Sequence is Offered

Arabic, Cambodian (Khmer), Chamorro, Chinese (Mandarin), Filipino, French, German, Greek, Hawaiian, Hindi/Urdu, Ilokano, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Latin, Maori, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Samoan, Sanskrit, Spanish, Tahitian, Thai, Tongan, Vietnamese.

Some language courses are not offered regularly, and this is noted in the course description section of the Catalog.

American Sign Language also fulfills the language requirement. Courses in American Sign Language are not offered at UH Mānoa, but the campus will consider students who complete American Sign Language to the second level of study as having met UH Mānoa’s Hawaiian or Second Language requirement.

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