Learn to Speak Hawaiian

By Lacy Varner

While the Hawaiian language is no longer widely used in fluency, many words and phrases are seamlessly woven into everyday life here in the islands. And while by no means necessary, it may be helpful become familiar with a few key words. Besides, it’s fun!

  • Lesson one – prepare to see a lot of vowels. There are only 12 letters in the Hawaiian alphabet, 5 vowels and 7 consonants: A, E, I, O, U and H, K, L, M, N, P, W.
  • Lesson two – All vowels should be pronounced with the “long” sound. For example, the a should be pronounced as in the word always, e should be pronounced as in the word every.
  • Lesson three – the ʻokina. The ʻokina signals a short pause in a word. For example, Kaʻanapali is pronounced ka-ah-napali.

Now that you know the basics, here a few of the most popular words for you to practice:

Aloha (ah-lo-ha) – a greeting or farewell; love
Aloha Kakahiaka (ah-lo-ha ka-ka-hee-ah-ka) – good morning
Aloha ʻoe (ah-lo-ha o-eh) – farewell
Mahalo (ma-ha-lo) – thank you
Mahalo nui loa (ma-ha-lo new-ee lo-ah) – thank you very much
Kokua (ko-ku-ah) – help, assitance
Wahine (va-hee-nay) – woman
Kane (ka-nay) – man
Keiki (kay-kee) – child
Kuʻuipo (ku-u-ee-po) – sweetheart
Hauʻoli la Hanau (how-o-lee la ha-now) – happy birthday
A hui hou (ah who-ee ho) – until we meet again
ʻOhana (o-ha-na) – family

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