Here is an idea for perpetuating Uchinaaguchi in Okinawa. Try to have Hogen (Uchinaaguchi) coffee shops in every town in Okinawa where anyone who wants to speak, learn, or practice it is welcome. The purpose is to create an environment for speaking the language. These coffee shops are identified by a special sign (perhaps a yellow flower symbol) to be placed outside so people passing by will know.
All who come to these Hogen coffee shops try to speak Uchinaaguchi to each other. Bring the ojisans and obasans, so we can hear their stories of the old days. If customers (first time) cannot understand Uchinaaguchi, then Japanese is spoken, but they are encouraged to listen, learn, and speak Uchinaaguchi. When they leave, they are encouraged to return to continue their learning. “It’s all love” is the attitude there.
Those who speak fluent Uchinaaguchi wear a particular colored sleeveless jackets (or t-shirt) to identify them as experts. They are offered free coffee, tea, juice, or soft drinks. They circulate from table to table to speak or teach Uchinaaguchi. They don’t work there. They can come and go as they please. Their sole purpose is to help perpetuate the language.
Every expert wearing a colored jacket should carry a writing tablet with tear-away sheets and a felt pen so that all the “students” at the table can see what he/she’s writing. He writes words and their meaning that students aren’t familiar with and examples in sentences. Each sheet should have his name on it. When his session at that table is finished, he tears out the sheet and gives it to the table. One of the students then goes to the copy machine and makes a copy for the coffee shop’s record. The students at the table keep the original copy.
The Uchinaaguchi expert then goes to the next table to talk to other students. All the experts circulate this way. Sometimes two or three experts talk to the students at the same table. Everything is informal. Everyone has a good time.
Perhaps there may be a time during the day when all the Uchinaaguchi experts can get together and talk about what they had done and brainstorm on how they can improve their teaching and come up with other subjects to talk about with students. This would give them a better sense of focus and direction.
Children, teenagers, and young adults are especially welcomed and encouraged to participate. They are encouraged to listen, learn, and speak Uchinaaguchi. The youth who do speak it are also given colored jackets to identify them as experts. The kids and teens who come to the coffee shop to learn are served inexpensive juice or soft drinks. Sandwiches and perhaps soba should be available.
There should be a library of Uchinaaguchi reference books. Also books or pamphlets of articles or stories written in Uchinaaguchi should be part of the library. Paper and notebooks should be available for purchase. If an article on Uchinaaguchi is shared at one coffee shop, it is duplicated and distributed to other Hogen coffee shops.
There should also be:
- a blackboard for Uchinaaguchi teachers who teach/lecture
- a stage for Uchinaaguchi lecturers and story tellers or singers who sing Uchinaaguchi songs
- a bulletin board to announce when any famous Uchinaaguchi speaker will come to speak or perform
- tape recorders and video cameras to capture all that is said there, especially for those who perform on stage like the lecturers, story-tellers, and singers.
It would be best if you didn’t call it “hogen”.
Yes… I have learned that there are those who feel that “Hogen” have historical derogatory connotations. However, in the past when I talked to my Dad – who today would be 104 years today, about our motherland Okinawa, he called the Okinawan language “Hogen”… without bitter emotions attached. Also, in Tekejiro Higa’s interview as an MIS veteran, he referred to the Okinawan language he knew as “Hogen”. So let me ask you,… would you consider these 2 Niseis insensitive? Anyways, so as to not offend those who don’t like the term “Hogen”, I refer to the Okinawan language as Uchinaaguchi. Listen to Takejiro Higa’s interview onYouTube.