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Understanding the Hawaiian Language

Every place that you go has its own lingo and slang terms that you are most likely not familiar with. In Hawaii, the slang is pretty out there, and almost everything has a name that the locals use. For example, locals wouldn’t call it Waikiki, they would most likely say “Waiks”; and calling a beach by its entire name is not common. Beaches are referred to as their name, or something close to it, or even the name of the surf break. Sandy Beach is Sandys and Waimanalo Beach is ‘Nalo.

The language in Hawaii is very different, and discerning what people are talking about can be quite a challenge. Everyone that you will encounter speaks English, so if you are coming from an English speaking country, the communication barrier will be non-existent. However, understanding what anyone is talking about when using words that come from the Hawaiian language and have become part of the everyday language spoken in Hawaii can be confusing.

The Hawaiian language is still very much in use and is the co-official language spoken in Hawaii, along with English. Many songs that are performed at Hawaiian luaus are done so in Hawaiian, which is a beautiful language, and actually only consist of only 13 letters, so many letters (such as the letter W) have multiple sounds. So if you see a word like “Waikiki” the W makes the traditional sound, while Hale’iwa uses the W to make the V sound. Interesting, right?

There is also the unofficial language of Pidgin, which is a hybrid of English, Hawaiian, Portuguese, Chinese, and Cantonese. The language comes from the days of the sugarcane plantation, giving workers from many different ethnicities a means of communication, and has stuck as a language in Hawaii.

While you are visiting Hawaii, take the time to learn a few Hawaiian words, and understand their significance to the ever day life of residents. Hawaii is a melting pot of cultures, and combining many different languages is just one of the things that makes the islands so incredible. Of course, you can always get by with Aloha, Mahalo, a friendly smile and a shaka. These are universally understood throughout the islands, and will go very far in your communication with locals.

Due to the high volume of visitors traveling to Hawaii year round, our Hawaii tours and activities sell out quickly. In many cases, tours sell out weeks or months in advance. To ensure your spots on tour, we recommend reserving your tours today. Call our office or book online to take advantage of our low price guarantee today.


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