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The Hawaiian Language

When you visit Kauai on vacation you don’t need a Hawaiian phrase book to communicate with the natives because English is widely spoken. However, the native Hawaiian language still exists and is a simple and beautiful language to hear. In fact, on the island of Ni’ihau Hawaiian is spoken daily. This is approximately 17 miles from Kauai so if you aren’t planning on heading off the island of Kauai you might not run into the language is such a strong way. However, it is guaranteed you will hear plenty of Hawaiian words while on your Kauai vacation and if you are open to it you will learn some and have a cultural experience to remember.

The Alphabet
The Hawaiian language was never a written language, but rather a spoken one. This worked fine for many years but when missionaries landed on the island and realized there was no written language they took it upon themselves to translate the spoken language into a written one. As a result, the alphabet of 12 letters was created. These letters are A ,E, I, O, U, which are the five vowels, and then H, K, L, M, N, P and W, which are the seven consonants.

When pronouncing these letters it’s easy to say them as we do in English, and with the exception of W that is just the sound! The Hawaiian language treats the W more as a V sound.

Glottals and Diphthongs
Other important parts of the language include glottal stops and diphthongs. A glottal stop is simply an upside down apostrophe and it means a hard pronunciation. Diphthongs are also important in the Hawaiian language and also occur in the English language. However, the difference is the second vowel is always pronounced in the Hawaiian language when it is not in English. Diphthongs are two vowels together including ae, ai, ao, au, ei ,eu, oi, and ou.

When you see the Hawaiian words written they might look impossible to pronounce, but if you take your time and try you will probably come pretty close!

Hawaiian Words
You are sure to come across a wide variety of Hawaiian words when you visit Kauai. More than likely you will understand what a lot of them mean by the context of the sentence or else by asking, but the following words will help you get a jumpstart!

Haole- Caucasian

Hula- The Hawaiian story telling dance

Keiki- Child

Lei- Flower necklace, can also use shells and feathers

Lanai- patio or veranda


Wikiwike- quickly, very fast

There is an entire Hawaiian language to learn, but these few words will give you some familiarity with the language and common spoken words when you reach Kauai!

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