Hawaiian Vowels and Consonants
In this lesson will be introduced to the basics of pronunciation in Hawaiian as well as the standard Hawaiian alphabet of 13 letters. You will also learn how to say the names of the letters in Hawaiian.
This was the very first video recorded by kumu Kaliko for ʻŌlelo Online in 2010 and it is the first one you should view if you are starting out learning Hawaiian language!
How To Use This Lesson
Make sure you take the time to really learn how to properly pronounce the vowels. If you are a native English speaker, remember that the vowels in Hawaiian are very “pure” and do not glide from one vowel to another as you pronounce them (as they often do in English). This idea will be explained in the video.
The consonant sounds are similar to their English counterparts. One consonant to watch out for, however, is the “L”. If you are a speaker of American English, be careful not to curl your tongue and create a large cavity in your mouth when pronouncing the letter “L”. The Hawaiian “L” has the tip of the tongue much closer to where you would place it to say a soft “D”; the “L”, however, requires allowing the air to flow around the sides of the tongue, whereas the “D” stops the air. Play around with making various sounds until you get the idea of this. Have fun!
Another consonant that you will want to experiment with is the “P”. In English, we don’t think anything of pronouncing the “P” with lots of air coming out of the mouth (between the lips). This is called a “plosive” sound. But in Hawaiian, try to make your “P” a little more like a “B” – in other words, see if you can come to a middle ground between the two consonants. This will allow for a “P” which is not too plosive. If you have the chance, listen to a few YouTube videos of Tongan language speakers; you will find the same consonant spoken there (and in many places in Polynesia). Many new Hawaiian language speakers coming from an English language background will pronounce their “K”s and “P”s with too much air coming out of their mouths during production. Try to learn the true Polynesian sounds early on, so you have a more genuine Hawaiian sound as you learn how to speak the language.
The same is true for the Hawaiian (and Polynesian) “K”. Make sure it is closer where a “G” comes from in the back of your mouth, but of course it shouldn’t fully sound like a “G”. Again, listen to any of the Hawaiian language samples in the Books section of ʻŌlelo Online to hear the sound of the “K” and all of the other letters in Hawaiian.
Overall, I find that if you try to keep the consonant sounds as “close to you” as possible –that is, try to keep the consonant sounds from “projecting” too far away from your mouth– then you will have much better overall Hawaiian pronunciation.
Next you should do the 0401P Pronunciation Practice: Vowels lesson to practice what you learned here.
Then, the next video lesson will be 0402V Pronunciation, Part Two: Macrons.
me ke aloha – with aloha
Length: 7 minutes
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