Wanna Learn A New Language? How about Pidgin?

by Shelli Stein

When we travel to places where the language spoken is unfamiliar to us, it creates at least a few problems, right? It’s not just a matter of ordering from a menu, getting from place to place, or not knowing how to ask for the toilet. It also means not being able to communicate with the local population. And that really limits how we get to know and appreciate our destinations. Assuming people speak your primary language, even if that’s English or some other widely spoken language, is never ever a good idea.

And then there’s another aspect to all this communication stuff. Many places have slang phrases or words and expressions from another language that’s widely spoken locally.

Besides language learning being good for your brain, I think it’s also good fun and makes for a much better travel experience. Learning even just a few phrases can help a lot……..especially in places like Hawaii.

Have you ever tried to understand Hawaii Pidgin?

In Hawaii, both Pidgin and Hawaiian words and phrases are thrown into almost every conversation. When you visit Hawaii, you’ll notice this. So why not prepare ahead of time, right?

This article talks about how to understand Hawaiian Pidgin and the 38 Hawaiian and Pidgin phrases every visitor needs to know.

As the article says, “If you’re coming to Hawaiʻi for the first time, prepare to be blasted with phrases and words that might not make any sense to you.”

Hawaiian Pidgin English, known locally as Pidgin, is spoken by many Hawaiʻi residents, and words and phrases from ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi (Hawaiian language) has also become the norm.

Don’t know the local lingo? Don’t sweat the small stuff! The article provides an alphabetical list of 38 Pidgin and Hawaiian phrases that will help you not get lost in translation and better understand Hawaiian Pidgin.

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Hawaiian and Pidgin Phrases Every Visitor Needs to Know

Here are some of my favorites!

1. The food in Hawai’i is wonderful so this phrase is a must-know.
Broke Da Mouth
If you’re eating delicious food, you can exclaim just how good it is by saying that it has “broke da mouth.”

“Ho, this saimin so ʻono, it broke da mouth brah.”

2. Perhaps your Hawaiian holiday is a bit toooo relaxing and your mind and memory have taken a vacation, too. This phrase will come in handy.
Da Kine
When referring to literally anything you can’t remember the name of.

“Remember when da kine came over? She forgot her da kine on the couch.”

3. Enjoying the local entertainment in the islands? Use this phrase.
Hana Hou (ha-nuh-ho)
A phrase taken from the Hawaiian language, translated it means “to do again.” It’s often shouted by audience members at the end of a live musical performance when trying to encourage an encore.

“That band was so good! Hana hou! Hana hou! Hana hou!”

4. Howzit
The combination of the words “how,” “is” and “it.”

“Howzit uncle?

5. Here’s something I’ve experienced in the islands but didn’t know there was a name for it.
Kanak Attack (ku-nack-uh-tack)
The inevitable sleepiness that washes over you after you’ve eaten a large quantity of food.

“Oh, brah, I ate too many leftovers and now I get one kanak attack. I going take one nap.”

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6. Never hurts to brush up on gratitude and knowing how to express it.
Mahalo (ma-ha-low)
A Hawaiian word for thanks, gratitude, or to thank.

“Mahalo for the mangos!”

7. Pau (pow)
ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi phrase used when you’ve completed something, or a task is done.

“Kai let’s go get some beers. I’m all pau with work.”

8. I like this variation of a common expression in English.

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Rajah (rah-jah)
The Pidgin version of the word rodger, something you say when you are in agreement. May or may not be accompanied with a “dat” (that).

“You like go Mākena Beach tomorrow? Rajah dat.”

9. Slippahs
Slippers, flip-flops, sandals.

“Oh we’re going somewhere nice? Hold up, let me put on my leather slippahs.”

10. This is one of my favorite island pastimes.
Talk Story
Catching up, telling stories or gossiping with friends or acquaintances? Talking story is often much longer than a normal conversation, and a whole night can be spent doing it.

“Nah, we nevah did much, just drank some beers and talk story all night.”

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Final Thoughts

The article gives you way more phrases than I mentioned here. Maybe you know some others that can come in handy. Share them! It doesn’t take much to make a Hawaiian holiday fun and memorable. But maybe adding in some Pidgin and Hawaiian language and knowing more about how to understand Hawaiian Pidgin will make your holiday even better! Aloha and mahalo for reading!

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