Kuapo ʻŌlelo
Hawaiian Hawaii & English


Why do people mispronounce Hawaiian words? A number of years ago some people deliberately mispronounced Hawaiian words in imitation of the way people speak on the mainland. They were ashamed of their connection to the Hawaiian language.

Today, people who know how to pronounce Hawaiian correctly are proud of it. Unfortunately, many people still mispronounce Hawaiian words. As young children we hear words pronounced incorrectly and we grow up thinking a non-Hawaiian pronunciation is correct.

Vowels are the key to good Hawaiian pronunciation. A change in vowel sound or the addition of an ‘okina before a vowel can give an entirely different meaning to a word. Think of the terrible mistakes that could happen if the following words were confused.

li‘a desire of the heart lia the egg of an ‘uku
lolo brainlōlō stupid
waliwali soft walewale slimy
kou you ko‘u mine
mō‘ī king, queen moi a type of fish
onaona fragrant ‘ona‘onatipsy
mau continuemao to stop (of rain)
mai come mae to wilt
kumu teacher kūmū (slang) good looking girl

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