There are two official languages in Hawaii–English and Hawaiian, though even the Hawaiian government admits an incredibly small number of people–about 0.1% of the population–is fluent in Hawaiian.
The Hawaiian language is surprisingly difficult to learn considering the fact that it features the shortest alphabet in the world–five vowels and eight consonants. The language seems to have arrived in Hawaii with settlers from the Marquesas but it was only oral until 19th century English-speaking missionaries endeavored to develop a written version as a way to teach Hawaiians to read and write. The missionaries couldn’t distinguish many sounds
that appeared in the language so they consolidated them into a smaller number of letters: the vowels a, e, i, o and u are there, but the only consonants are h, k, l, m, n, p and w. When Americans overthrew the Hawaiian monarchy they prohibited the speaking or teaching of Hawaiian; the bans effectively lasted until the 1970s, when the language experienced a revival. Though Hawaiian became an official language of
Hawaii in 1978 and was reintroduced into schools in 1987, including the development of immersions during which students speak and write in Hawaiian all day, by then the damage was done. Today, while many Hawaiians have become familiar with the language, there are only a few thousand people who speak it to the exclusion of all others.
In Hawaiian, hello and goodbye are both the same word: “Aloha.” Aloha also means “love,” “affection,” and much more; the “Spirit of Aloha” is the part of the essence of Hawaii. (What is the deeper meaning of Aloha?)
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