0403P Pronunciation Practice: ʻOkina

The Hawaiian ʻokina character indicates a “glottal stop” (like the break in the middle of the English word “uh-oh”). If you have arrived here and have no clue what I am talking about, I invite you to see video 0403V Pronunciation #3: The Glottal Stop to get a complete introduction to the concept.

The ʻokina may not look like a normal letter to you, but remember that it acts just like any other consonant and has just as much power to change the meaning of a word as its fellow consonants do (for example in English: bat vs. cat vs. mat vs. sat, and so on). You can clearly see in those examples that one little consonant can completely change the meaning of the word. Well, that’s exactly the same with this consonant we call the ʻokina, or glottal stop.


Rules of placing glottal stops

The rule of where to place the ʻokina is that it can be located at any part of a word as long as it is followed by a vowel, thus:


  • it can be at the start of a word (eg., ʻala)
  • in the middle somewhere (eg., wanaʻao)
  • between two vowels (eg., Hawaiʻi), or
  • in multiple places following these rules (eg., ʻaʻole, haʻihaʻi, pōnaʻanaʻa)

Not Allowed:

  • no ʻokina at the end of a word ( eg., oliʻ ) because as stated above, it has to be followed by a vowel.
  • no ʻokina with another consonant right next to it (eg., hānʻau, mahiʻna, haleʻʻaina)

Like the kahakō, explained in 0402V Pronunciation #2: Macrons, the ʻokina can completely change the meaning of a word. Listed below are a few word pairs with meanings that are altered by the presence of the ʻokina.


Practice saying each word and take note of the differences in meaning. Say them to yourself, following my lead, at least four times each. You’ll need to train your brain how to properly and easily make a glottal stop sound natural in the middle of these words. This kind of practice is very important before you advance too much further in your study of Hawaiian language.

Please log in to use the links on the left-hand side to hear the examples.


1 mai (directional marker) maʻi (sick, unwell)
2 kio (to chirp) kiʻo (to defecate)
3 oi (to move) ʻoi (superior, better; sharp)
4 oli (a chant; to chant) ʻoli (joyful, happy)
5 kae (refuse, rubbish) kaʻe (the edge of something)
6 au (pronoun “I”) ʻau (to swim)
7 helelei (a variety of sweet potato) heleleʻi (falling as of rain or tears)
8 pō (night, darkness) poʻo (the head)
9 ahu (a heap or mound) ʻahu (a cloak-like garment draped over shoulders)
10 lānai (a porch or veranda) Lānaʻi (the name of the island)
11 Molokai (missing ʻokina)1 Molokaʻi (the island name)
12 aha (what?) ʻaha (a gathering or convention)


  • 1. This island name is often mispronounced without an ʻokina, but we know from listening to many kūpuna (elders, ancestors) recorded from the 1950s to 1970s, who were native speakers from Molokaʻi, that the original name did indeed have an ʻokina in it. It is interesting that several Hawaiian island names have the -ʻi ending, such as Hawaiʻi, Lānaʻi, Molokaʻi, and Kauaʻi.

Next Steps

Now that you are done with the basics of pronunciation (vowels, kahakō, and ʻokina), you might want to look into the large set of words which I have created for you to practice Hawaiian pronunciation in as many variations of base “word parts” as I could think of: 0404P Hakalama Practice Audio. You will be able to download the audio files and an accompanying PDF with all of the words in nice tables so that you can practice the consonants, vowels, and macrons in small clusters of common combinations. This will be immensely helpful to you as you start to read and speak Hawaiian in the upcoming lessons.

You may also want to take a momentary side-step and learn how to actually write the ʻokina and practice that as well. Find out more in 0403R How To Write The ʻOkina

0402P Pronunciation Practice: Kahakō

Practice word pairs with macrons used to change meaning


Vowels with kahakō are drawn out a bit longer than vowels without them, as we learned in video 0402V Pronunciation #2 about macrons. Although the kahakō alters the sound of the word in what may seem to be a very subtle way, the change in meaning is most often quite drastic. Listed below are 12 word pairs with meanings that are altered by the presence of the kahakō.

Time to Practice!

For this practice lesson, read through the list below and say the pairs of words to yourself, taking note of the differences in pronunciation and meaning. After trying by yourself a few times, listen to the correct pronunciation of each word pair by clicking on the audio links provided and then say them once again. You should say them at least four times each to get yourself used to the way your mouth has to move to make the same sounds as I do in the examples. Then say them four more times and four more times again throughout the day!

Word Pairs (click to play)

1 paku (to expel, “kick out”)pakū (to burst, as a boil)
2 paʻu (laborious work)paʻū (soaked, drenched)
3 paʻū (soaked, drenched)pāʻū (skirt, hula skirt)
4 lolo (brain)lōlō (paralyzed, numb)
5 kaua (war)kauā (outcast, slave)
6 kauā (slave)kāua (pronoun inclusive for “us” or “we”)
7 pupu (small, tiny)pupū (to stall, move slowly)
8 pupū (to stall, to move slowly)pūpū (a shell, or appetizer)
9 ʻole (not, without)ʻolē (conch shell, trumpet sound)
10 kukū (a thorn)kūkū (a term like “grandma” or “grandpa”)
11 hio (a gust of wind)hiō (to lean to the side)
12 pahu (a box or drum)pahū (to explode)

Further Practice

Take some time to write down each of the word pairs and, as you do so, think on the meaning of the word and also how it feels to actually write the kahakō mark on top of the vowels. You will find it quite interesting compared to just looking at it done for you, because you will be experiencing what we all went through when we first learned to write: how to get the lines drawn at the correct angle and in the correct length!

Also remember that the vowel i with a kahakō ( ī ) loses its little dot. The kahakō goes right through where the dot would be, so see if you can write that a few times to get used to it.

kīkaha to soar in the sky, turning, wheeling, as a bird
lī anu the feeling of being cold and shivering
lī lua1 “doubly cold” (poetic)
līhau a type of light rain or cool morning dew
līlīlehua2 the “Texas sage” flower
mīkana / hēʻī3 a papaya fruit
mōʻī4 a royal, as a king or queen
nīele to be overly inquisitive, intrusive, or snooping
nīʻau5 the “midrib”, or backbone, of a single coconut leaf
lī kāmaʻa shoe laces


  • 1. You may have heard this in the famous mele “Kau Lī Lua”: Kau lī lua i ke anu (o) Waiʻaleʻale (bitterly cold in the chill of Waiʻaleʻale) referring to being up in the highlands of Kauaʻi.
  • 2. The līlīlehua was made famous in recent times by musician Kahauanu Lake and scholar Mary Kawena Pukui who wrote the song “Pua Līlīlehua”. The song takes place in O’ahu’s Pālolo Valley, where two suitors court a cherished sweetheart. One is a human being, the other a mo’o (a legendary type of being of multiple forms).
  • 3. the word mīkana tends to be used more on Hawaiʻi island than elsewhere, where hēʻī is more popular. The other options (milikana and papaia) are not used today, as far as I can tell.
  • 4. In Hawaiʻi after about 1800, the word mōʻī came to mean a “monarch” or ruler of all the land (all of the islands). King Kamehameha I was the first of this dynasty of Mōʻī, all the way up to Queen Liliʻuokalani at the end of the 1800s. This is the meaning of mōʻī we use today.
  • 5. The nīʻau are stripped in the hundreds from the individual leaves of the coconut fronds and then dried and bundled together at one end to form a most excellent hand-held broom about 3 feet long. It is used throughout the Pacific to sweep the floor or even the dry dirt of pathways and the areas surrounding houses, to great effect!

Next Steps

Following this lesson, you will want to move on to the next video in this Series, 0403V Pronunciation #3 about the glottal stop (ʻokina). Then you can practice one more set: 0403P Pronunciation Practice: ʻOkina. Enjoy!

Pronunciation Practice: Vowels

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 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.

Vocabulary List (click on word to play)

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.

Next Steps

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).

0801P Pepeke Henua Practice #2

Extended vocabulary for haʻawina (homework)

the chair ka noho
his/her father kona makuakāne
the cup ke kīʻaha
the window ka pukaaniani
the dog ka ʻīlio
the bed ka moe
the cat ka pōpoki


Translate the following sentences into Hawaiian using Pepeke Henua and the extended vocabulary provided above. Remember and refer to the vocabulary and explanation of the “poʻo-piko-ʻawe” structure explained in V0801.
  1. The girl is with her father.
  2. His mother is in the house.
  3. The cup is on the table.
  4. The dog is on the chair.
  5. The boy is on the bed.
  6. The book is in the car.
  7. Where is the school?
  8. The cat is at the window.
Translate the following sentences into English.
  1. Aia ka pōpoki i hea?
  2. Aia ka puke ma ke kula.
  3. Aia ke keiki me ke kaikamahine.
  4. Aia ka ʻīlio i ka moe.
  5. Aia kona makuahine ma ke kaʻa.
  6. Aia kona makuakāne ma ka pukaaniani.
  7. Aia ke pākaukau i ka hale.
  8. Aia ke kīʻaha ma ka noho.

Nā Haʻina (The Answers)

* Note that when translating from English to Hawaiian, “in”, “on”, and “at” can generally be “i” or “ma” when used referring to a place or time (e.g. “in my house”, “at 4 o’clock”, or “on the road”). English to Hawaiian (the poʻo, piko, and ʻawe have been separated for clarity)
  1. Aia / ke kaikamahine / me kona makuakāne
  2. Aia / kona makuahine / ma ka hale.
  3. Aia / ke kīʻaha / i ke pākaukau.
  4. Aia / ka ʻīlio / ma ka noho.
  5. Aia / ke keiki / ma ka moe.
  6. Aia / ka puke / i ke kaʻa.
  7. Aia / ke kula / i hea?
  8. Aia / ka pōpoki / ma ka pukaaniani.
Hawaiian to English
  1. Where is the cat?
  2. The book is at school.
  3. The boy is with the girl.
  4. The dog is on the bed.
  5. His mother is in the car.
  6. His father is at the window.
  7. The table is in the house.
  8. The cup is on the chair.
We hope you have enjoyed this practice!