HONOLULU (KHON2) — Learning a new language is challenging and takes dedication, repetition and a lot of practice. 

Learning the Hawaiian language comes with its own challenges. However, with enough practice, it can be easily mastered.  

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Makanani Salā is the executive director of the Mayor’s Office of Culture and Arts. She said when people are learning a new language, they often time get embarrassed to try speaking it in front of other people. 

“They are too afraid to speak because they are shame to make a mistake,” said Salā. “Learning any language is not an easy process, but we learn the most when we step out of our comfort zone and begin to practice.”

She said mai hilahila, don’t be shy, making mistakes is part of the learning process. Another obstacle when learning a new language is making sure you are correctly pronouncing the words. 

Most common words mispronounced are:

  1. Honolulu – not Hanalulu
  2. Malihini – not malahini
  3. Kūpuna/Kupuna – not kapuna
  4. Kamaʻāina
  5. Kamehameha – not Kameameha or Kam

If you are looking to learn the Hawaiian language, Salā said you can take classes at UH or at the community colleges. She said there are also a bunch of free online resources. For more information click here

“Hawaiian is one of two official languages of the State of Hawaiʻi,” said Salā. “Additionally, it is around us every single day.”

She said the language is present in our street names, our cities and towns, our parks, and history is very much defined by Hawaiian language on some level.

Even if you are born and raised on the island, there are common words that even Hawaii residents might get confused on. Salā said kulikuli is one of them.  

“People use it to say, ‘be quiet,”’ but actually it means ‘noisy,'” said Salā. “Waikīkī is another one.”

It is difficult to calculate how long someone will take when learning the Hawaiian language. She said throughout her work it took her a couple of years before feeling comfortable in conversation. 

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“That said, however, you should be able to comprehend pretty quickly,” said Salā. “It is the speaking part that takes some practice.”