Learn a Little Bit of the Hawaiian Language

Writing E Komo Mai on the sandy beach at sunset

Part of the history of a culture is in its language. 

“The Hawaiian language, ‘Ōlelo Hawai‘i, came to our shores along with the first people to arrive from the ancestral homelands of Polynesia. The language evolved alongside the culture into the nuanced, multi-layered ‘Ōlelo Hawai‘i we know today.” (Go Hawaii)

Malama Ka Aina painted on a lava rock wall

Learning some common phrases in Hawaiian can greatly enhance your experience when visiting Hawaii and show respect for the local culture. Here are a few common phrases along with their pronunciation guide:

  1. Aloha (ah-LOH-hah) – This is perhaps the most well-known Hawaiian word, meaning both “hello” and “goodbye.” It also carries deeper meanings such as love, affection, and peace.

  2. Mahalo (mah-HAH-loh) – This word means “thank you.” It’s important to express gratitude, and using “mahalo” is a great way to show appreciation in Hawaii.

  3. E komo mai (eh KOH-moh my) – This phrase means “welcome” or “come in.” You might hear it when entering a shop or someone’s home.

  4. A hui hou (ah HOO-ee HOH) – This phrase is often used to say “until we meet again” or “goodbye.”

  5. ʻOhana (OH-hah-nah) – This word means “family.” In Hawaiian culture, ‘ohana represents not only blood relatives but also close friends and community members.

  6. Pau hana (pow HAH-nah) – This phrase means “finished work” or “after work.” It’s often used to refer to the time after work when people relax and socialize.

  7. Keiki (KAY-kee) – This word means “child” or “children.” You might hear it used in various contexts, such as in childcare or educational settings.

  8. Hale (HAH-leh) – This word means “house” or “building.” You may see it in street names or when referring to specific locations.

  9. Mauka (MOW-kah) – This word means “towards the mountains.” In Hawaiian geography, directions are often given relative to the mountains (mauka) or the sea (makai).
  10. Makai (mah-KYE) – This word means “towards the sea” or “oceanward.”

If you want to dig in even deeper, Duolingo has Hawaiian as a language option!

Remember, pronunciation is key when speaking Hawaiian words. Pay attention to the vowels, as they are pronounced distinctly, and try to mimic the rhythm and flow of the language as best as you can. Locals will appreciate your effort to embrace their language and culture even if your pronunciation isn’t perfect at first.

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