There are three languages spoken on the islands: English, Hawai’ian and Pidgin. One is an imposition, another a reclamation, and the third is an invention.

Here is the text of the recorded greeting and farewell that plays every half-hour at the airports on the Big Island, Maui, and O’aku, spoken by residents of the respective islands.

E nā makamaka kipa mai i ke Kahua Mokulele O Molokai, o ka heke o ke aloha iā ‘oukou!  E na hoa e haalele ana, mahalo keia kipa ana i ka ‘āina hanau o Hina. No na kama’aina no ho’i, e hele a hoi palekana mai no. A iā oukou e malihini me nā kupa āina pū i hoea mai nei, ke aloha o nei ‘āina iā ‘oukou a pau!

And here is audio, of the greeting at Molokai:


I wish I could offer instead the Hilo greeting, recorded by a man. The sound of his rendition is so much rounder, richer, and all the while a caress. Like waves lapping at you, or the light touch of a loved one’s fingers, running along your back.

Another audio of ‘Ōlelo Hawai’i, from a Volcanoes National Park educational film. Listen to the first few minutes:

Hawaiʻian airlines has begun speaking the Hawai’ian on several of its inter-island flights, and also some to the mainland and overseas. The following short history is from the company’s announcement of its re-introduction of the language, among other cultural initiatives.

“ ‘Ōlelo Hawai‘i was banned in Hawai‘i’s classrooms in 1896, three years after the overthrow of the Hawaiʻian Kingdom. In the 1970’s, a group of passionate college students, including Dr. Larry Kimura, and the last fluent Hawaiian-speaking elders came together to bring back the language. Their persistent efforts at the Hawai‘i State Legislature eventually led to the creation of the Hawaiʻian language revitalization movement. Since then, Hawaiʻian language has joined English as the state’s designated official languages, and is studied and spoken by students in schools and universities statewide as it regains its place in everyday business and life in Hawai‘i.”

Missionaries gave Hawai’ian its written form – letters, words, diacritical marks – even as they promoted and encouraged adoption of English. As spoken the language has seventeen different sounds: five vowels (with both long and short forms), nine consonants (including the glottal stop ‘okina, and two pronunciations of w), and seven dipthongs. The ‘okina indicates a sound gap left between vowels, like the one heard in English uh-oh, and oh-oh. The kahako (macron) is used to indicate the long vowel sound. Hawai’ian is forbidding at first glance to an English speaker, but a few simple word and pronunciation rules sort everything out.

The alphabet and dipthongs:
A, E, I, O, U, H, K, L, M, N, P, W,
and AE, AI, AO, AU, EI, EU, OU

Consonants are pronounced as they are in English, with the exception of w which is pronounced as the English letter w after u and o, and as v after a and i.

Vowel pronunciations are below, as explained on the Instant Hawaiʻi website1.
Vowels marked with a macron are simply held a beat longer.

ALike the a in far
ELike the e in bet
ILike the y in city
OLike the o in sole
ULike the oo in moon
Source: Hawaiian Dictionary


A nice chart from Wikipedia for dipthong pronunciation:2

aii in ride
aeI or eye
aoow in how
with lower offglide
auou in loud or out
eiei in eight
similar to ew in few
oioi in voice
ouow in bowl
uioo-(w)ee in gooey


Finally, some Simple Secrets, again from the website Instant Hawaii;

” … there are a couple of simple tricks to help you figure out Hawaiian words quickly and pronounce them properly:

  • Hawaiian words may start with any letter, vowel or consonant.
  • Hawaiian words will never end with a consonant.
  • Syllables in Hawaiian words are only one or two letters, never longer.
  • Syllables must end with a vowel, or can be a single vowel, but can never be a single consonant.

How do the above rules help us? Well, let’s consider one of the longer words in Hawaiian (the word for our state fish):


If we remember our rules about syllables we can quickly, and visually, break it up into syllables like this:

hu-mu-hu-mu-nu-ku-nu-ku-‘ā-pu-a-‘a …”

Now you can say aloud all the place names I’ve referenced in this issue! Correctly! If I have figured out how to get my Mac keyboard on board with Hawai’ian diacritical marks!


error: Content is protected !!