Hawaiian Lingo To Practice Before Your Vacation

By March 19, 2019About Hawaii, Language

On your way toward Kolea at Waikoloa Beach Resort, you might consider boning up on some of your Hawaiian lingo. The Hawaiian language is a Polynesian member within the Austronesian family of languages. While English is the official language of Hawaii, you might hear Hawaiian being spoken by some of the natives.

What is the Hawaiian Language Like?

The Hawaiian language only has 13 letters. There are seven consonants, five vowels, and what is known as a “glottal stop” which is created by cutting off all sound coming through the vocal cords.

While Hawaiian has all the same vowels as English, the only consonants are: H, K, L, M, N, P, W. The Hawaiian vowels are pronounced nearly the same way as they are in Spanish and this insight presents a solid foundation on which to begin pronouncing Hawaiian words. Consider, for instance, the word “Aloha” one of the most iconic words in the Hawaiian language. This word, if it were a Spanish word, would sound pretty much the same as it does in Hawaiian.

There are four basic rules to word construction in the Hawaiian language:

  • Two consonants never appear in sequence;
  • All words end in a vowel;
  • All consonants end in (at least one) vowel; and
  • All syllables end in a vowel.

Much like Japanese and Spanish, Hawaiian is a very “consonant then vowel” type language.

Vowel Clusters

There are no consonant clusters in Hawaiian like there are in English or other Germanic languages. On the other hand, there are vowel clusters. If we use Spanish as the baseline for pronouncing vowels in Hawaiian, then we end up with:

  • A is pronounced as “ah” as in “top”;
  • E is pronounced as “ay” as in “gate”;
  • I is pronounced as a hard “ee” as in “feet”;
  • O is pronounced as a hard “o” as in “goat”; and
  • U is pronounced as a hard “u” as in “goop”.

What other vowel sounds can you make in Hawaiian?

  • AI is pronounced as “I” as in “bike”;
  • AE is pronounced as “IY” as in “eye”;
  • AO is pronounced as “ow” as in “cow”;
  • AU is pronounced as “ou” as in “couch”;
  • EI is pronounced as a hard “a” as in “eight”;
  • IU is pronounced as “ew” as in “few”;
  • OI is pronounced as “oi” as in “boy”;
  • OW is pronounced as “ow” as in bowl; and
  • UI is pronounced as “oowee” as in “gooey”.

In English, sentences follow a certain syntactic pattern in sentences that include subjects, objects, and verbs. For instance, “I eat food” has the basic structure of [subject] [verb] [object]. In Hawaiian, the sentence structure works like this: “[verb] [subject] [object]”.

For a full glossary of words to practice at your Kolea at Waikoloa Beach Resort, check out this Hawaiian language glossary.

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