A Guide To Saying Hawaiian Words

Dated: 05/11/2016

Views: 558

When my wife and I bought our home and moved to Kona Hawaii, we struggled with how to pronounce Hawaiian words.   The truth is that we beat the language up pretty badly, as we struggled to say and understand words spoken between ourselves.  What came out of our mouths was nothing like the words were intended to be, but, it allowed us to carry on a private conversation.  It took our first year to reach a point where we got close to the correct pronunciations and felt reasonably comfortable speaking these words in public.  Our struggles do not need to be your struggles, because now, there is help.

If you are experiencing some Hawaiian language issues, I have some help for you.  I ran across  an article in the Maui Guidebook online at:  http://mauiguidebook.com/basic-maui-info/how-to-pronounce-hawaiian-words/  entitled "How to Pronounce Hawaiian Words in 15 Minutes".  It is a quick and useful guide that would have made our first year speaking experience much easier.  The Guide identifies five basic rules that will allow you to rattle off the name of our State Fish, the Humuhumunukunukuapua'a (pictured below), with ease.

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All this is possible because the Hawaiian language in written form was created just two centuries ago using the English alphabet with the aim of making it easier for westerners to learn.  The written Hawaiian language has few exceptions to the pronunciation rules that plague the English language, and the alphabet was developed to have only one symbol for each sound.  It also helps that the written Hawaiian language only uses twelve letters.  Check out the guide for complete information, but if you do nothing else, learn these two of the five simple rules in the Guide.

Rule #1 is that you need to break the word up to make it easier to say.  Most Hawaiian words break at the consonants so that you only need to concentrate on the consonant and the vowels that follow when you sound out the word.  For example, the word "aloha" is pronounced "a"-"lo"-"ha", and "Kailua-Kona" is pronounced "Kai"-"lua"-"Ko"-"na".  The same process applies no matter how long the word is.  There is one other sound break used in some Hawaiian words and that is the apostrophe symbol (').  When it is used, there is a break before the next letter is sounded.  For example, the type of lava known in Hawaiian as "A'a", uses this symbol to insert a sound break when the word is spoken.  It is sounded out as "A"-"a".

Rule #2 is the pronunciation of the vowel sounds.  Remember, there is only one sound for each vowel so when you learn the five sounds, you will have most of the language problems mastered.  A is pronounced "ah" as in "soda"; E is pronounced "ay" as in "say";  I is pronounced "ee" as in "see"; O is pronounced "oh" as in "zero"; and U is pronounced "oo" as in "boo".  When vowels are clustered together in a word such as "alii", just sound them out one at a time and let the sounds roll off your tongue as if you were singing them.  "Alii" would sound like "ah"-"lee ee".

Using these two rules, lets tackle the pronunciation of the State Fish, the Humuhumunukunukuapua'a.  First, break it up by consonants and apostrophe symbols: Hu-mu-hu-mu-nu-ku-nu-kua-pua-a.  Then sound out the vowels: "Hoo"-"moo"-"hoo"-"moo"-noo"-"koo"-"noo"-"koo ah"-"poo ah"-"ah".  This is one of my daughter's favorite words and it will be yours soon too!

If you need help with the meaning of a Hawaiian word, I found this helpful Link:  http://wehewehe.org/

Now that the written Hawaiian language is no longer so terrifying, you are going to need a place to call your own in Hawaii.  I can help you with that too!  Please call or text me at 808-938-1710, email me at cpkona@outlook.com, or visit my website at www.Charlie.MyIslandHomeRealty.com.  "Why Just Dream?"  Your new home in Hawaii is only a call away.  I look forward to working for you.

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