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Hawaiian 101

Sep 18, 2012 | All Stories, Hawaii Tips

The state of Hawaii is unique in that there are two official languages – English and Hawaiian. The Hawaiian alphabet has just 12 letters (A, E, I, O, U, K, L, M, N, P, and W.) Visitors to the islands will find the Hawaiian language incorporated at restaurants, shops and activities. Here’s a quick guide to a few useful Hawaiian words and phrases.

“Aloha” – The most popular Hawaiian word, most people don’t realize that “Aloha” has multiple meanings. It can be used to say “hello” or “goodbye.” It also means “welcome” and “love” or “affection.” The term is used when greeting visitors to Hawaii with a flower lei, or to describe a dress code like aloha attire (which means men should don aloha shirts and slacks.)

“Mahalo” – The Hawaiian word for “thank you” is used frequently in everyday life on the islands. Try using mahalo whenever you want to show gratitude or appreciation towards someone. “Mahalo nui loa” means “thank you very much.”

Hawaiian Fresh Flower Lei
Hawaiian Ukulele Player

“Hana Hou!” – This phrase translates to “one more time!” You’ll hear locals encouraging their favorite musical performers at the end of the show with this saying. When you hear the sweet sounds of an ukulele and beautiful melodies of traditional Hawaiian music, it’s impossible to keep from shouting “Hana Hou!” when the concert has come to a close.

Sometimes visitors get hung up on the pronunciation of Hawaiian words. Keep in mind that in Hawaiian language vowels are pronounced differently than in English. There are no silent vowels; each letter is spoken. Take your time and soon enough you’ll be talking like a local! Here’s a guide to the vowels:

A – pronounced “ah”

E – pronounced “eh”

I – pronounced “ee”

O – pronounced “oh”

U – pronounced “oo”

Give us a shout and let us know how your Hawaiian speaking experience goes. Aloha for now!