Have you ever heard that every word in the Hawaiian language ends in a vowel? This is true. It's just the way the language developed. `Ôlelo Hawai`i (the Hawaiian language) consists of five vowels (a e i o u), seven consonants ( h, k, l, m, n, p and w), and two special characters: The `okina and the kahako.
The Hawaiians had a spoken language dating back to 400 AD. Information passed from one generation to the next via stories, chants, hula, and the use of petroglyphs. When the missionaries landed in Hawai`i around 1820, they converted Hawaiian into a written language using the English alphabet. Because they were not used to hearing the language, they weren't able to distinguish between t and k, l and r, b and p, or v and w. So Hawaiian differs in pronunciation from other central and south Pacific venues. While the w is always written, sometimes it's pronunced as a v. That begs the age old question, is it pronunced "Hawai`i" or "Havai`i"? That depends on where you are. The northern islands of Kaua`i and O`ahu tend to favor the w; whereas the southern islands of Moloka`i, Lana`i, Maui and the Big Island tend to favor the v.
The vowels in the Hawaiian language sound just like the vowels in Latin, Spanish or Italian. Every letter is pronunced, there are no diphthongs.
Now we should talk about those special characters. The `okina is that symbol that looks like an apostrophe facing the wrong way. It signifies a glutteral break in speech. The Kahako is a line over a vowel that elongates that vowel. Both of these characters are real letters in the Hawaiian language. Leaving them out can change the meaning of a word. Here's the Hawaiian Language with the proper markings: `Ôlelo Hawai`i.
Want to learn more? Here are some links that will help:
Hawaiian Language Lessons
Speak Hawaiian like a local
Hawaiian Language Wikipedia
Hawaiian Proverbs - Ôlelo No`eau
Mo'o and Lolo's Cyber Hawaiian Dictionary:
Native Tongue - A Hawaiian Glossary
We should also mention the history of Hawaiian Pidgin. In the 1800s, people from all over the world were brought into Hawaii to work at sugar plantations, pineapple fields, or ranches. These people needed some way to communicate with each other so Hawaiian pidgin was born. You'll hear it spoken all over the place today. If you're visiting the islands, you may pick up a few words but many locals will tell you that it hurts their ears to hear visitors speak it.
Here are some common phrases:
An Den - what happened next (And then)
Brah / bruddah - brother or buddy
Broke da mout' - yummy (broke the mouth)
Busup / Hamajang - broken
Chicken skin - chills or goose bumps
Choke - Many or a lot
Da kine - A phrase that replaces words that you can't remember, similar to "whatyamacallit"
Fo' Real - Are you sure (For real)
Garans - Guaranteed.
Grind - To eat
Hana Hou - do it again, one more time, bravo
Hele On - Let's go, get going
Howzit - How are you? How's it going?
Huhu - Mad
Kay Den - Okay then, (often sarcastic)
Lolo - Dumb, slow, crazy
Lua - Bathroom
Okole - Buttocks, backside
Pau - Finished (a Hawaiian word)
Pilau - Dirty
Shaka - Hand gesture meaning hello. The pointer, middle and ring fingers are closed and the thumb and pinky stick out
Stink Eye - A dirty look
Tita - A very tough girl
Talk story - Have a conversation
Talk stink - gossip
Want more? Check out the Hawaiian Pidgin Dictionary.
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