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hawaiian language guide (top of page) HAWAII WORD TRANSLATOR

A few rules may help you in properly pronouncing your Hawaiian name. Unlike English, there are only 12 letters in the Hawaiian alphabet:
A E H I K L M N O P U and W.

Hawaiian Language Consonants
Pronounce P K as in English but with less aspiration. Pronounce H L M N as in English. W after I and E is usually pronounced like V, but after U and O usually pronounced like W; initially and after A, it can be pronounced like V or W.

Hawaiian Language Vowels
Each of the 5 Hawaiian vowels is generally uniform with some exceptions such as:
A like A in far, tar; also like UH. E like AY in bay, lay; also like E in bet; I like Y in city; also like E in Eve O like O in no, so U like OO in moon; also like U in true.

Hawaiian words, phrases and the Hawaiian language as a whole are basically simple and easy to pronounce if you sound out the words.
Here are some examples of Hawaiian Vowel Pronounciations:

A pronounced: ah as in "star" as in the Island word ALOHA

E pronounced: ey as in "stay" as in the Island word LEI

I pronounced: ee as in "see" as in the Island word HAWAII

O pronounced: oh as in "glow" as in the Island word MAHALO

U pronounced: oo as in "soon" as in the Island word HONOLULU

The History of Language and Culture in Hawaii may well have begun with the first settlers in the idlands who arrived from Hiva in the southern Marquesas Islands around 400 A.D. These settlers brought with them their gods, plants, culture and their language. The Hawaiian Language belongs to a family of languages from central and eastern Polynesia, which includes Hawaiian, Tahitian, Tumotuan, Rarotongan and Maori.

The arrival of Captain James Cook in 1778 marked not only the beginning of major changes for the people of Hawaii, but also changes in their language, religion and cultural traditions. Following Captain Cook other Westerners arrived including missionaries from New England around the year 1820. The missionaries were determined to educate the Hawaiians, including teaching them to read and write. In order to do this, they needed to give the Hawaiian language a written and recordable form.

The State of Hawaii has maintained a distinctive culture and heritage as well as a lyrical language which has recently experienced a revival throughout the islands. Even with residents whose heritage in not Polynesian, the common use of traditional terms is most predominant in their everyday vocabulary. It is quite rare to encounter a non-Hawaiian language street name anywhere in the Islands making map reading for the Tourist or Visitor challenging unless you can readily recall the 12 - 15 letter names and 5 - 7 syllables while you are searching for road signs and directions.

Another challenge is that most words seem to start with K or W and end in I or A making them virtually indistinguishable to most newcomers. Many Word, People and Place names in Hawaii are dauntingly long and challenging to pronounce unless you view them as a string of shorter words linked together into a longer descriptive and complete sentence. Listed below are a few useful suggestions to help your experience of Hawaii feel more like a local or native.

"Aloha", recognized around the world as the most popular Hawaiian Greeting means much more than "Hi" or "How are you..?" or "See you later". Aloha means to share the breath of life or the essence of existence. The second most popular of the Hawaii spoken words is "Mahalo" meaning "Thank You" throughout the islands. The traditional name for visitor's or foreigners who are non-native is "Haole", a term generally given to light or white Caucasian folks. Kapu is the Hawaiian word for taboo, which may include sacred or forbidden geological areas, archaeological sites or religious practices known and respected within the traditional island Culture. There are a great many more of these than any visitor might ever realize as they are just not discussed or shared as a matter of common course.

The first Sugar Cane plant came to the Islands of Hawaii with the Polynesian settlers but the early technology for making sugar was imported from China. Over the next 150 years, Hawaii created one of the most evolved Sugar Cane production facilities in the world. Today, there are only two Sugar Cane operations left in the State, one on Kauai and the second one on the island of Maui. Water, both fresh and salty has always been an understandable obsession for the local islander people and the Hawaiian's were no exception. This is reflected in their preoccupation in the vast number of longer words and names that incorporate Wai (fresh water) and Kai (sea or salt water) into the base of the language. The Hawaiian word for Wealth is Wai Wai equating the reverence for Water with wealth.

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