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Hawaii’s Other Language – Laid Back “Pidgin” English Reigns Supreme

For many visitors to Hawaii, one of the first signs that they might notice outside of blue water, white sand and palm trees, is the way people speak English.  It’s a built-up way of speaking English from many years of immigrants flowing into the islands over a hundred years ago.

To speak in pidgin English or what some might call Hawaiian Creole, is a comforting sound to those around the work who were raised in Hawaii.  I can be in Colorado skiing and notice the accent, say Eh You Da Kine,  and from there, we’re friends for life and pounding Li Hing Mui beer (I’ll blog about that later).  And as in many twists of the English language, pidgin has a very classic melody.  Even if the person is speaking correct English, you can detect the pidgin melody at times.

From blue Colorado to the Governor’s Hale, business owners to lawyers, thought we all speak in “real” English, like coming home to a beer, glass of wine or what ever and un-winding, relaxing and talking story in pidgin is part of life; it’s Hawaii’s second language.   Please note, it’s not the language of the Hawaii’s as a culture.  The Hawaiian language has a wonderfully unique melody and sound to it – oh, and obviously you wont understand it if you hear people speaking.  🙂

Anyhow, this is a great award-winning documentary film  produced by Marlene Booth and Kanalu Young explaining in detail the origin of Hawaii’s second language, Pigeon.  Enjoy

However, there are plenty of people who were born and raised in Hawaii that find the pidgin style of speaking to be of poor education or a lack of respect for the English language or even a “class thing”.  If you go to a school like Kamehameha system, it is forbidden to talk in class in pidgin (from what I hear – if I’m wrong, someone help me out there).  Either way, it is what it is….

Here’s a fun book about Pidgin that you might want to check out.


5 Responses

  1. Thanks for this excellent posting on Hawaii Pidgin. I grew up speaking Pidgin and then later learned to speak and write haole English. I got back into Pidgin when I helped Joe Grimes translate the Bible into Pidgin. When I read the Bible in English it speaks to my head but when I read the Bible in Pidgin it speaks to my heart. For me speaking Pidgin is a big part of being local in Hawaii. And it is one of the things that makes Hawaii a great place to live.

  2. Great video. Would you make copies available to share with people who don’t have an internet connection?

    • Aloha – If you’re talking about the video, I didn’t create it. I found it on YouTube. After I saw it I decided to blog about it.

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