The Biggest Question I Get Asked about Hawaiian

The biggest question I get asked is to translate people's phrases from English into Hawaiian.

If it's something not too serious I am happy to help and I'll usually give my thoughts as to what I would say and how I would say it. Majority of the time however, it's for a tattoo or a child's name and this is where I have to use a hard word for me, "no."

It's not "no" because I don't care about their cause - it's "no" because I care and I know that a translation done poorly results in a poor and weak translation.

Languages don't directly translate for example:

"Go to the store." in Hawaiian would use the word "hele" for "go" but "go outside" would use "puka" and not "hele". This is because Hawaiians viewed going outside differently than English speakers do. To Hawaiians, you're not "going" you are passing through/emerging from where you are currently. To delve even deeper, Hawaiians use "komo" for "go inside" because you are entering into a place.

As you can see in this example - Hawaiians had 3 words to express something that English said with 1 so translating is never as simple as, "This is what I want ______." and "Ok. Here it is ________."

I have put together a free guide that will help you work on translations yourself. This is the exact process that I go through so if anything you will see a glimpse of how much you're asking when you ask someone else to translate something for you.

A word of caution: There are all sorts of levels of Hawaiian Language Speakers. I would put the knowledge of a Native Speaker above all else, then University Professors, Masters Students, and everyone else. Choose wisely who to trust and do your own research before using any translation in a final form. These things are forever.

Happy Translating!


1 comment


I really like this post about being Hawaiian and translating our expressions. So perfect for comprehension of our language! I may use this at home to teach my son as we progress through the lockdown. All the very best to you and your Ohana.

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