September 14, 2011

H, k, l, m, n, p, w, and sometimes ‘

In case you weren't sure, those are the consonants in the Hawaiian alphabet. There are a grand total of five vowels and eight consonants. That is not a lot of sounds. My untrained ear thinks this alphabet is seriously lacking in consonants. Or maybe English has too many! I've always complained that English has too many vowel sounds, so I think this is what I get for complaining!

Although local people are real friendly in sharing good neighborhoods, new places to eat and the like, more often than not, the directions get confused in my head. I feel silly, but I have to ask for clarification. A lot. Kaneohe? Keiki? Kailua? Kapiolani? Kalihi? Ko'olina? Kahuna?

The bonus consonant is the okina (‘). It doesn't really help in the understanding department, since it doesn't add a "letter," but a stop. And, if you really wanted an in-depth lesson today, it's not an apostrophe or an accent mark. To write it correctly, it's a single beginning quote mark (ALT+0145, I know you were curious). If you doubt it's really a letter, check out this youtube video of the Hawaiian alphabet:

The hardest part has been driving around to look at houses. Some street names aren't written with the okina, so you have to know when to pause. And I don't. Adding pronunciation problems to unfamiliar territory seriously challenges my skills as a navigator.

Me: "Turn left on"
Kyle: "Haha what?"
Me: "Haha...ione"
Kyle: "Can you spell it?"
Me: "H-A-H-A-I... wait, that's it! Turn now!" (Tires squealing, angry drivers)

More often than not, it's been a source of jokes and not arguments. It'll take some getting used to, but it's interesting to be learning a new language to use in the United States. I love languages, so I'm pretty excited about it!

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