What is the Language Spoken in Honolulu Hawaii

What Language Do They Speak in Honolulu
(Last Updated On: November 10, 2023)


Hawaii is the only state in the United States located outside North America. The Hawaiian Islands are known all over the world for their beautiful beaches. Hawaii has beautiful beaches with unusual colors, including green, red, pink, and black sand. The state is made up of 137 volcanic islands. There are eight main islands where most of the state’s population is located. With 1.4 million inhabitants, Hawaii is one of the most densely populated states in the US.

The official languages of Hawaii are English and Hawaiian. Linguists weren’t sure at one point that the Hawaiian language, also known as ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi, would survive. However, the state has made efforts to promote the language. Language experts were hired to create a dictionary of Hawaiian to make the language prevalent in the state.

The Language of Honolulu, Hawaii:

Honolulu is the capital of the state of Hawaii. It is an essential portal in the United States. It is also host to various cultures, cuisines, and traditions. Honolulu is the third safest city in the US. It also ranks high on the world livability rankings. It is the second-most populous city in Polynesia. More than 50% of the city’s population is of Asian descent. Japanese make up the biggest Asian ethnic group in Honolulu. 8.4% of the city’s population comprises the native Hawaiian people. Downtown Honolulu is the historic and economic center of the town. Chinatown is the most famous district in Downtown Honolulu.

Since the state of Hawaii is a part of the US, English is one of its official languages. But what is the language spoken in Honolulu, Hawaii? The majority of Honolulu’s population cannot speak the English language fluently. Hawaiian and immigrant languages are spoken in the city of Honolulu. Various community languages, including Japanese and Yue Chinese, are also spoken in Honolulu. But Hawaiian continues to be the most popular vernacular in the city.

The Language of Honolulu Hawaii

The Hawaiian Language:

Hawaiian is the native language of 24,000 people. In Hawaii, it is known as ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi. It is a Polynesian language that is primarily spoken in Hawaii. The English language has heavily influenced it. A creole known as Hawaiian Pidgin is more prevalent in Hawaii than in native Hawaiian. Some linguists believe that Hawaiian Pidgin is a dialect of American English. Many fear that, ultimately, the Hawaiian language will go extinct. The increasing popularity of English in Hawaii points towards that future, too. But for now, Hawaiian is one of the official languages of Hawaii and continues to be spoken by thousands of native speakers.

The speakers of native Hawaiians can be found all over Hawaii. The Hawaiian diaspora also speaks the Polynesian language in foreign countries. The Hawaiian alphabet has five vowels and eight consonants. The Hawaiian vowels have both long and short pronunciations. The people of Hawaii had to make a lot of sacrifices to get the freedom to speak their native language whenever they wanted.

For a long time, Hawaiian was not taught in the Kamehameha Schools. Speaking Hawaiian was also considered a crime. Many men and women were imprisoned because they spoke Hawaiian in a public space. There are many instances in the history of Kamehameha Schools where students were punished for speaking Hawaiian. Once the Hawaiian language was recognized in the constitution, it became more accessible for people to use in everyday conversations. It is one of the community languages of today, which is spoken in different islands of the state.

The Renaissance of the Hawaiian Language

People started to progressively accept the loss of their original tongue in the middle of the 20th century. The Hawaiian-English Dictionary by Mary Pukui and Samuel Elbert was published in 1957. This can be viewed as a significant turning point for the Hawaiian language from a modern perspective. Following that, the Hawaiian language gained popularity in several contexts.

In 1978, a constitutional amendment proclaimed Hawaiian an official language, marking another significant turning point in the resurgence of the language in Hawaii. Nowadays, children whose parents desire to conserve or reintroduce the Hawaiian language in Hawaii for the future generation attend kindergartens and schools where the Hawaiian language is taught. Adult language programs are also available. Even earning a master’s degree in the Hawaiian language is possible at the University of Hawaii.

The hula and Hawaiian artists like Israel Kamakawiwo’ole and Gabby Pahinui, who passed away in 1997, were also significant contributors to the revival of the Hawaiian language. Eight thousand people speak Hawaiian fluently, in addition to the about 1,000 native speakers of the language. More and more locals claim to speak Hawaiian as their primary language. Over 24,000, according to a census conducted between 2006 and 2008. On the radio, there is a “Hawaiian Word of the Day.”

Hawaiian first names are also trendy outside of the USA because they sound exotic, melodic, short, and easy to pronounce.

Here are some examples of Hawaiian language names.

For girls:
Lanea = Heavenly Flower
Kala = Princess

For boys:
Aolani = Beautiful cloud
Makaio = God’s gift

The Hawaiian Language

Hawaiian is an endangered language

Although there are thousands of native speakers of Hawaiian, it is still an endangered language. The English language is slowly replacing it as the community language in Hawaii. But still, many people continue to study it. Many multilingual students are in Hawaii because English and Hawaiian are taught in schools. Although the Hawaiian alphabet is simple, the Hawaiian grammar can be challenging to understand. The Hawaiian language revitalization program was a step toward increasing linguistic diversity in this US state.

It was the Hawaiian Bible that promoted literacy in Hawaii. The Christian mission had a far-reaching influence on the people of Hawaii. The school systems of Hawaii and Honolulu today produce multilingual students. These students rely on their cultural strengths to learn multiple languages. The native speakers of Hawaiian are not too many in numbers, but the board of education has made various attempts to make the language prevalent in the state.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Hawaiian is one of Hawaii’s most spoken languages after English. The cultural strengths of the people of Hawaii are being negatively influenced by American culture. The gradual increase in speakers of Hawaiian is the only way to keep the language alive.

  • Is it illegal to speak Hawaiian in Hawaii?

    Although it didn’t ban or make illegal the Hawaiian language in any other context, the school’s implementation had profound effects. The law was interpreted by those who wanted English-only schools and used it to extinguish the native language at the early education levels.

  • Does Hawaii have its own language?

    Hawaii is home to many languages, including Hawaiian. There is no “Hawaiian population.” The native Polynesians (the native Hawaiians) are the only exception. They are all immigrants, as in other parts of the US. They all speak American English. Some speak their native languages. Others speak pidgin English.

  • Is Hawaiian a dead language?

    No, Hawaiian is not a dead language. Hawaiian is home to approximately 20,000 native Hawaiian speakers. There are also many second-language speakers on the big island. It is still being taught to children.

    However, UNESCO still considers the Hawaiian language to be critically endangered.

Hawaiian Alphabets

The Hawaiian alphabet only has 12 letters! It was created by English missionaries who wanted to translate the Bible to convert the native people to the Christian faith – until then, Hawaiian was a purely oral language.

The letters of the alphabet are A, E, I, O, U, H, K, L, M, N, and P. Two punctuation symbols, the okina and the kahakō, complete it: the okina looks like an apostrophe (‘) and serves to “break” a word. It is always between two vowels.

For example, without the okina, the word Hawaii would be pronounced “Hawaii.” With its okina, it is spelled “Hawai’i” and pronounced “Hah-wai-i.”

The kahakō is a symbol like a hyphen (-) placed over a vowel: it lengthens and draws it a little.

Grammar in the Hawaiian Language

The Hawaiian language alphabet, introduced by missionaries in the 19th century, is one of the shortest alphabets in the world. It consists of 13 letters of the Latin script, the five vowels A, E, I, O, and U, and the consonants H, K, L, M, N, P, W, and the ‘okina. The letter W is sometimes written as a V. The ‘okina is an apostrophe that counts as a consonant because it can completely change the meaning of a word.

wharf = sea; but Ka’i = to lead, to carry.

The ‘okina in the Hawaiian language is only used between two vowels or at the beginning of a word. If a comment contains an ‘okina, there is a short pause during the pronunciation. The most prominent example is the word Hawai’i itself.

Another grammatical mark in the Hawaiian language is the kahakō, a mark that looks like a small line and is placed over a vowel. It means the vowel over which the kahakō is placed is slightly elongated. Omitting the kahakō can also completely change the meaning of a word.

How do we Increase the number of Hawaiian speakers?

Hawaiian is the official language of Hawai, but it has less than a million native speakers. If the number of speakers of Hawaiian doesn’t increase, this Polynesian language will go extinct. Although it is one of the community languages taught in Kamehameha Schools today, it still doesn’t have enough speakers. Only effective educators with the right skills can improve the situation of multilingualism in Hawaii. Without effective educators, there will be no multilingual students.

If we don’t focus on a range of languages, we will eventually lose all of them to popular vernaculars. On six out of seven inhabited islands of Hawaii, the English language replaced Hawaiian. The range of languages in Hawaii has already been affected by the popularity of English. The Hawaiian speakers are decreasing in number despite the simplicity of the Hawaiian grammar. The Board of Education’s attempts to increase the number of Hawaiian speakers has been successful. But it is still not enough to save the language from extinction.

English Language in Hawaii

Businesses in Hawaii only use English as the primary language. Read our post about How Can I translate English words to Polynesian? But forcing companies in Hawaii to operate in Hawaiian won’t be very productive. On the other hand, asking student performers to use Hawaiian can be helpful. Children bring their culture into school, which is what promotes multilingualism. This is why introducing Hawaiian culture into school with the help of student performers can get positive results.

The popularity of the Hawaiian Bible in the state proved that religious literature could cause an increase in attention towards the language. Including religious literature should be a part of the policy implementation plan.

English is not the only language affecting the statewide population’s culture. Immigrant vernaculars like Yue Chinese and Japanese also involve the use of Hawaiian. It is up to the Hawaiian government to develop a policy implementation plan that can increase the number of speakers of Hawaiian with the help of effective educators. Creating linguistic diversity in all the country’s inhabited islands is essential.

Creating a good dictionary of Hawaiian is just as crucial for the multilingualism policy implementation. The data on common languages spoken in Hawaii proves that the statewide population focuses more on English than Hawaiian. A gradual increase is the only way to improve the situation of Hawaiians in the state.

Creole Language

This Creole language is a combination of Hawaiian and English. Hawaii has two official languages, and Hawaiian is one of them. Hawaiian sugar plantation laborers speak a hybrid language known as Hawaiian Pidgin or Hawaiian Creole English that combines Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Portuguese, Hawaiian, and English.

State motto in the Hawaiian language with translation

“Ua Mau ke Ea o ka ´Āina I ka Pono.” This phrase in the Hawaiian language is Hawaii’s state motto and enshrined in the constitution. Because many Hawaiian words have different meanings according to their contextual context, this phrase has been difficult for linguists to translate. The following translation is widespread: “The life of the land is preserved by righteousness.” In the song “Hawaii ’78,” Israel Kamakawiwo’ole sings about this motto, introduced by King Kamehameha III in 1843 after the failed British coup attempt. Even after more than 170 years, this statement, which was initially formulated in the Hawaiian language, has lost none of its meaning.


There is no one Hawaiian language but rather a group of closely related dialects, which are sometimes considered to be separate languages. However, these varieties are descended from a common ancestor and are considered part of the same language family.

No, Hawaii is not a complex language to learn. It is one of the easiest languages to learn for English speakers. Hawaii has a simple grammatical structure and a relatively small vocabulary. The Hawaiian alphabet has only 13 letters, so learning to read and write is easy.

In the state of Hawaii, it is not illegal to speak Hawaiian. However, some restrictions exist on where and when Hawaiian can be spoken. For example, Hawaiian must be spoken respectfully and cannot be used to disrupt public school classes.

In 1986, the United States District Court for the District of Hawaii ruled that the state’s ban on the teaching of Hawaiian violated the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. The court ruled that the state could not ban the teaching of Hawaiian because it was motivated by a desire to suppress a particular viewpoint, namely Hawaiian culture and language.

If we can help you with any questions, please feel free to contact us


Our privacy policy

Keep in touch


Contact Us 24/7

Translation office in Miami
Request quote