The Hawaiian language uses an alphabet of only thirteen letters: five vowels (a, e, i, o, u) and eight consonants (h, k, l, m, n, p, w) including the `okina, or glottal stop. Both the `okina and the kahako, or macron, are diacritical marks used to help you pronounce Hawaiian more accurately. Conveniently, there is a `okina in the word `okina and a kahako in the word kahako. When you see the `okina, use a vocal break like the one when pronouncing "oh-oh." The kahako tells you to elongate the vowel, so when you call someone lolo, or crazy, pause a little longer on both o's. The `okina and the kahako affect only vowels; the `okina goes between them and the kahako goes over them.
Note that you should not use an apostrophe for the `okina. The glottal stop mark on a keyboard is usually in the upper left or right, along with the tilde.
Unfortunately, diacritical marks are not used in most documents, although their use is increasing. Also, because the Hawaiian language was little used for a long time, many people living in Hawai`i do not pronounce Hawaiian words accurately.
You have probably noticed that there are a lot of vowels in Hawaiian. In fact you will never see two consonants together, but you often see two and sometimes three or four vowels in a row, and every word ends in a vowel. Do not be intimidated. Just remember to pronounce each one in a flowing manner (unless of course there is a `okina between them). Think of Hawaiian words you may already know how to pronounce: poi and lanai.
The w in Hawaiian is often pronounced with a soft v sound, as in the island Kaho`olawe. However, as this is irregular, you should assume it is a w sound unless you hear others speak with the soft v.
Pronunciation of written Hawaiian follows basic phonetic rules. Vowels are as follows:
a – as in above
e – as in bet
i – as y in city
o – as in sole
u – as oo in moon
Stress generally falls on the second syllable from the end (examples are wahine, kanaka); also on syllables with a long vowel (kane).
Practice your pronunciation on the Hawaiian words and names included here; all of them are in italics.