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Just Stared Learning Hawaiian

September 10, 2019


Get ready for some long words because they don’t have too many letters in the language so they have to combine them heavily. Also keep in mind that the sentence structures are very different from western languages. The verbs go at the beginning, followed by the subject then the object of the sentence.

There are also a lot of sentences with no verbs. Be ready for sentences that are basically just two noun phrases put together. For example “He kumu ‘o Ka’iulani” would be “Ka’iulani is a teacher”, but the literal translation is “A teacher Ka’iulani” (the ‘o marks the subject of the sentence). You might also see sentences with just an adjective followed by a noun like “‘Ono ka pipi” which means “The beef is tasty” but it literally is just “Tasty the beef” in Hawaiian.

Also, nouns are often used as verbs without changing their form at all (but by placing them at the beginning of the sentence) and verbs can be used as adjectives (by placing them after the noun they modify). For example, “kāwele” means “napkin” but when you use it as a verb it means “to wipe”. “Palai” is “to fry” but if you put it after “i’a” (“fish”) then it means “fried fish”.

Also keep in mind that multiple structures or multiple words can sometimes be used to translate certain sentences in the lessons. When you get one wrong, duolingo will show you a correct response at the bottom, but it doesn’t mean it’s the only correct response. Sometimes, you will try to use a certain sentence structure or a certain word you know, and you will make mistakes, and it will give you a different sentence structure or word in the suggested correct response. That doesn’t mean that you cant use the sentence structure or word you were trying to use. For example, there are multiple ways to say cook, like “kuke” or “ho’omo’a”. If you try to say “We cook the taro in the kitchen” and you use the word “kuke” and make one mistake elsewhere in the sentence, they will show you the correct response that is the closest to the response you gave and will underline the word that you made the mistake on. But if you use the word “kuke” and make at least two mistakes elsewhere, they will just give you the generic suggested answer, and that answer might use the verb “ho’omo’a” instead of “kuke”. In this case they are not highlighting your errors, they are just giving an example of a correct response, but it doesn’t mean that you were incorrect in using “kuke” or that the sentence must be translated using “ho’omo’a”, it just means your answer was wrong and contained at least two errors altogether. It’s hard to explain, but it’s important to understand this or you might misinterpret the synonymy in the language or the flexibility of being able to use two different structures to express the same idea.

In certain ways the language is simple and in certain ways it’s very complex. You don’t have to conjugate verbs or suffix nouns for plurality. The morphology is simple. But the vocabulary is rich and unpredictable in ways (for westerners). Telling time and dates was hard for me at first. When you get to these lessons, I suggest you have a notepad and copy down the patters to reference when you do exercises. So you might write things like:

Ka hola (#) = (#) ‘oclock

Ka hapalua hola (#) = (#):30

Kani ka hola (#) = It is (time)

Hapahā i hala ka kola (#) = (#):15

i ka hola (#) = at (#) o’clock

‘O ka (day) ka lā (event) = The (event) day is (day)

Aia ka (event) ma ka (day) = The (event) is on (day)

‘O ka (day) kēia = Today is (day)

I also write down all new words in my notepad and try to say sentences out loud. You might prefer one or the other depending on if you’re an audio or visual learner.

In the beginning I felt like “OMG how will I ever remember these words or be able to pronounce them” but with practice it really does become more natural.


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