First, here is a bit of history. Hawaii was annexed in 1899 by the USA becoming its 50th state. At that time, the Hawaiian language was removed from schools and English became the official language of the state of Hawaii. As part of an effort to revitalize the Hawaiian culture, Hawaiian was made an official language of Hawaii in 1978 alongside with English. This decision has greatly help preserve and even restore the Hawaiian culture for all of us to enjoy.
There are only 13 letters in the Hawaiian alphabet with 8 consonants and 5 vowels:
H K L M N P W
ʻ (the ʻOkina mark)
A E I O U
You will notice various accents, marks, and signs. They have a purpose; some means to take a slight pause while others mean accentuating a long vowel. For instance, the translation for Hawaiian Language is ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi. The apostrophe mark (technically a consonant known as the ʻOkina) means to have a pause in the word where it is noted. The mark that looks like an upper dash is the Kahakō and means a longer sounding vowel (ā, ē, ī, ō, ū).
Three Fun facts
1) All Hawaiian words and every syllable always end with a vowel.
2) Two consonants cannot appear next to each other.
3) Every consonant is followed by one or more vowels.
It is important to use the proper pronunciation because mispronouncing a word can have a very different meaning. For instance, kai means the sea while kaʻi means to lead. The vowels are most important and pronounced differently than the English language. If you can master the pronunciation of the Hawaiian vowels, you will progress rapidly.
A = ah
E = eh
I = ee
O = oh
U = oo
Ha = Hah
He = Heh
Hi = Hee
Ho = Hoh
Hu = Hoo
W = Sounds like a V
The Most Common Words
- Aloha [ah-lo-ha] = Hello, greeting, goodbye (Find out the true meaning of Aloha »)
- Mahalo [ma-ha-lo] = Thank you
- Mahalo nui loa [ma-ha-lo new-ee lo-ah] = Thank you very much
- ʻOhana [o-ha-na] = Family
- Wahine [va-hee-nay] = Woman
- Kane [ka-nay] = Man
- Keiki [kay-kee] = Child
- Kokua [ko-ku-ah] = Assistance, help
- A hui hou [ah who-ee ho] = Until we meet again
We also love this site where you can hear how words should be pronounced. Check it out »