One of the things that I wish I had spent more time on while I was in Hawaii was learning to speak the language of locals. I think I avoided it mostly because I was afraid that I would not say the words correctly - I wouldn't want to offend the Hawaiians! However I realize now that by attempting to learn and giving it a shot, this is more respectful than ignoring altogether. I have purchased a Hawaiian phrasebook which I regularly read, so I can start to get up to speed. Here are some phrases that you should consider using during your next trip to Hawaii - the locals will love you for trying:
1. Happy Thanksgiving - Hau’oli La Ho’omakika’i
2. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year - Mele Kalikimaka me ka Hau'oli Makahiki Hou
3. I Love You - Aloha Au Ia 'Oe
4. Thank you very much - Mahalo nui loa
5. Until we meet again - A hui hou kakou
6. Welcome - E komo mai
I'm sure you're thinking how on earth do I pronounce some of these words? Well, The 5 vowels a,e,i,o and u as well as the 7 consonants h,k,l,m,n,p, and w make up the entire Hawaiian alphabet. In the Hawaiian language a consonant is always followed by a vowel which also means all Hawaiian words end in a vowel. It is easier to pronounce words when you break them down into single syllable chunks. Sometimes the letter W is pronounced the same as V as in the traditional pronunciation of Hawai'i which is phonetically pronounced huh-vi-ee rather than huh-why-ee.
In the Hawaiian language a symbol directly over a vowel called a kahakô indicates that the vowel sound is to be elongated. A apostrophe like symbol called an `okina indicates a quick pause in the word, as in "ah-ah" for the word a`a.
True Hawaiian locals actually have another 'language' that they use, called Pidgin. True pidgin spoken in Hawaii is more like Hawaiian slang, not the pidgin language spoken in the South Pacific Islands. A rich local culture lies behind Hawaiian pidgin, and seems to rub off on those who stay for any length of time. Many people, especially in the country areas and outer islands, speak only da kine, true Hawaiian Pidgin. I have to say that when we lived there I found myself picking up some of these habits - like saying 'ya' at the end of every sentence! Some examples of pidgin words include:
1. Brah - All the bros in Hawaii are Brahs; brothers; pals (you hear Dog the Bounty Hunter use this a lot)
2. Haole - A word that used to mean foreigner, but now means a white person or Caucasian - my Hawaiian friends used to call me this a lot! I believe that this is often used in a rude manner - i.e. its not a compliment to be called a Haole - its almost used in a sarcastic manner
3. Kamaaina - A long time island resident or local
4. Malihini - A newcomer, tenderfoot or recent arrival
5. Wahine - A young woman or girl; female; wife. Written on a door it means "Ladies Room".
I strongly encourage you to try and incorporate some words or phrases into your trip to Hawaii to get a real Hawaiian experience. There are some great pocket-size word/phrasebooks out there that are inexpensive; pick one of those up so you can be ready for any conversation!