Compare Pure Sounds and Vowel Glides
When pronouncing Hawaiian vowels, producing the correct sound and controlling the shape of your mouth is crucial. It is all too easy to unknowingly alter the shape of your mouth, adding another vowel to what should actually be one pure vowel sound and producing an unwanted vowel glide or diphthong (“dipthong”). This occurs most frequently for English language speakers at the ends of Hawaiian words.
The main problem with adding an unwanted vowel glide to the end of a Hawaiian word is that the result is often a completely different word in Hawaiian! A great example of this —and one I hear frequently from students of Hawaiian language— is pō vs pou (shown as #10 in the list below). Therefore, pronunciation practice helps strengthen our awareness of how the vowels should sound and how we can best produce them.
Vowel Glide Practice
Provided below is a list of word pairs that often cause trouble for those just starting to learn Hawaiian. If you have not already done so, see video 0401V Pronunciation #1: The Alphabet for instruction on how to pronounce Hawaiian vowels and consonants.
For this lesson, read through the list below, try to say the words to yourself, and take note of the differences in meaning. After trying by yourself, listen to the correct pronunciation of each word pair by clicking on the audio links provided and then say them once again (Members of ʻŌlelo Online can use the links on the left to hear the examples).
|1||wai (water)||wae (to sort, select)|
|2||kai (sea)||kae (refuse, trash)|
|3||moi (threadfish)||moe (to lie down)|
|4||koi (to urge, insist upon)||koe (to strike as a match when starting a fire)|
|5||kau (season)||kao (a goat)|
|6||mau (always)||mao (to cease raining)|
|7||hao (metal, iron)||hau (snow, ice)|
|8||hē (a grave)||hei (to snare)|
|9||hale (a house, building)||halei (to straddle something)|
|10||pō (night)||pou (a post, pillar)|
|11||ule (male genitalia)||ulei (to lift or raise something)|
|12||nē (to whine, nag)||nei (indicator of close proximity)|
Further Practice With Difficult Diphthongs
Listen to the word pairs in the table above once again. Repeat each pair after me so that you can learn how to correctly pronounce the vowel combinations with accuracy. A great way to practice is to use headphones while listening to me on one device, while at the same time recording what you are saying on another device such as your iPhone, Android, tablet, computer, or what have you. Then listen back again and really assess how accurate you were.
The next video lesson in this Series is 0402V Pronunciation #2: Macrons followed by 0402P Pronunciation Practice for Kahakō, which will help you learn how to differentiate pairs of words with, and without, macrons (kahakō).