The words aloha and mahalo are the easy ones. So, too, hula. We all know those. And after a short visit to Hawaii, you could probably addpupu, and poi to your Hawaiian language vocabulary. And, because we all love food, ahi, mahimahi and ono, too.
After living in Hawaii for 10 years now, the words pau, kuleana, lava,mauka, and makai sprinkle my every day English without pause. I can even rattle off the state fish with ease—humuhumunukunukuapuaa. It took a bit of practice, but now, the name of the protected marine national monument in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands rolls off my tongue, as well—Papahanaumokuakea. (Of course, it helped that I spent two weeks there a year ago, participating in a scientific study of Laysan and black-footed albatrosses.) That’s not to say I don’t fumble new words; nor do I really know all that many words or a lick of the language itself—syntax, grammar and such. And I certainly couldn’t converse in Hawaiian.
On a recent Monday morning at Keauhou Beach Resort, Kumu Keala Ching led visitors in a game of Hulo!, a Hawaiian word game. At first glance, it reminded me of Scrabble, but I quickly learned Hulo! is a little more rambunctious than Scrabble.
We each received a dozen tiles, each adorned with a letter, either a consonant—h, k, l, m, n, p, w—or a vowel—a, e, i, o, u. Kumu yelled “Hoonoho,” and we began making Hawaiian words by connecting letters horizontally and vertically in our own personal crossword. But here’s where Hulo! differs from Scrabble. There are five special pieces in Hulo! that can be used any time during game play. For example, the tile with the word akau forces players to pass two tiles to the right.Hema forces a two-letter pass to the left.
The game ends when the center pile of tiles is gone and the first player uses up all his/her personal letters and shouts, “Hulo!”
Kumu Keala taught me two things that help me pronounce the street names and mountain peaks and beaches around the Hawaiian archipelago:
1. Pair up a consonant with a vowel; and
2. Pronounce every, single letter.
I didn’t shout “Hulo!” the morning I played, but I still had fun and—more—I learned a few new Hawaiian words in the process.
The Hawaiian Language class taught by Kumu Keala is one of many cultural programs offered at Keauhou Beach Resort. Others include Hawaiian chanting, hula, games, arts and crafts. The hotel itself is located on historic grounds. A guided tour of the property is a journey into the past through sacred sights, freshwater wells and a replica of the summer cottage of King David Kalakaua. For more information, click here.