Hawaii’s isolation has made it one of the most unique and distinct places in the world.
As a translation services professional I’ve always found Hawaii to be one of those amazing places you can travel to where English is spoken everywhere, so you can’t get gummed up, but if you’re interested in languages there’s plenty to keep you occupied on that score as well! In fact, Hawaii is bursting with interesting facets.
Hawaiian Language Facts
You don’t need to study linguistics to find Hawaiian fascinating. Some of the best trivia from that State involves languages – for example, the common example of aloha. Derived from the proto-Polynesian word alofa, aloha can mean love, compassion, or mercy – but is most commonly used for both “hello” and “goodbye.”
Hawaii has both Hawaiian and English as official languages despite decades of attempts to eradicate Hawaiian after the United States claimed the islands (some say using duplicity). You can also find people who speak Pidgin, Samoan, and Tongan there, and in fact Hawaiians sprinkle English with so many Hawaii-specific slang phrases and regional twists it could be considered a dialect, sometimes!
Captain Cook originally named the islands the Sandwich Islands after his sponsor, the Earl of Sandwich. After uniting the islands into one kingdom in 1819, King Kamehameha renamed the islands the Kingdom of Hawaii from the Proto-Polynesian hawaiki, which translates to “place of the gods” or “homeland.”
The Hawaiian islands were formed by a process of underwater volcanic eruption – a process that continues today. This means that Hawaii is the only U.S. State – and one of a very few places in the world – that is increasing in size on a regular basis.
There are no racial majorities in Hawaii, meaning that no ethnic group makes up more than 50% of the population. This makes Hawaii one of the few places in the world where everyone is an ethnic minority. The word for Caucasians, or white people, is haole and is sometimes used deprecatingly by the natives when tourists are a bother. They make up about 33% of the population today. Surprisingly, Japanese also make up about 33% of the population, followed by people of Filipino descent (16%), and Chinese descent (5%). These numbers however don’t reflect that most of the population is a mixture of one or more groups.
The recent history of Hawaii is somewhat unhappy; in 1778 Captain Cook estimated the population at about 1 million people. By 1919 the native population had decline to just under 23,000 people! The native population has rebounded to about 1.3 million in the last century, however.
Hawaii owes its distinct culture somewhat to its isolation: It’s the most isolated place in the world, 2,390 miles away from the nearest continent.