It is absolutely wonderful when you want to learn a language and can actually find a textbook that will help you do it. I am learning Hawaiian, and I have already managed to buy two language books. “Learn Hawaiian At Home” is the one I’m currently using; “Ka Lei Haʻaheo” will be my next choice.

The author of the book, Alberta Pualani Hopkins, was a professor of Indo-Pacific languages at the University of Hawaiʻi at Manoa. Passionate about her home state, she wrote “Ka Lei Haʻaheo” to encourage people to get to know not only the beautiful language but also the rich and fascinating culture of her ancestors.


This 278-page textbook has a very distinctive structure, as it is split up into two separate but related parts.

The first part is comprised of six lessons: Orthography and Pronunciation, Class-Inclusion Sentences, Equational Sentences, Imperative Sentences, Personal Pronouns and Stative Verbs Sentences, Simple Verb Sentences and Infinitives. Each of these lessons is no more than ten pages long and is further divided into four or five sections: Basic Sentences, Explanations, Dialogs, Exercises, Vocabulary (the first lesson is an exception – its sections are: Orthography, Pronunciation and Spelling, Place Names, Exercises, and References).

The second part consists of seven reviews, which are made up of several modules containing summary of previous contents and additional, more advanced lessons.

At the end of the book there are vocabulary lists as well as compilations of idioms and useful phrases (Hawaiian – English and English – Hawaiian).

The textbook does not include answers to the exercises. These are provided – along with English translations – in the book’s companion volume “Ka Lei Haʻaheo: Teacher’s Guide and Answer Key”, which needs to be bought separately.

Each chapter is illustrated with line drawings by Anna Stone Asquith.

Ease of use

The textbook is certainly student friendly. Its structure may not be the most intuitive, but after a while you can find your way around it, so it is suitable even for those people who want to learn Hawaiian without a teacher.

The lessons are of appropriate length to allow learners to focus on the material without getting bored or frustrated. You can do as much or as little as you want in one sitting. Especially that grammar is broken down into smaller chunks, which are easy to “digest”.

Speaking of grammar, the author’s explanations seem to be clear and to the point. They are presented in a concise manner without superfluous comments that usually tend to be more irritating than needed. There are also plenty of sample sentences, which provide further clarification, as well as real-life dialogs with notes regarding Hawaiian culture and ways of being.

Every lesson ends with a set of very interesting and helpful exercises. Unfortunately – and this is a major drawback – you need the book’s companion volume to be able to check the answers. If you want to “invest” in two titles, then you won’t have any problems. But if you’d rather buy only the textbook (without the Teacher’s Guide), you may want to find yourself a person who will be willing to help you.

Would I recommend it?

Yes, I would. The book is not the cheapest – especially if you decide to purchase both the textbook and the Teacher’s Guide – but in my opinion this is money well spent. Plus, think about how much you would have to pay for a language course for example. So a textbook is still a more budget-friendly option.

“Ka Lei Haʻaheo” will be great for any student, but I’d say it will be best for those who have already started their adventure with the Hawaiian language. If you are a total beginner, “Learn Hawaiian At Home” may be a better choice, as it explains all the rules as simply as it is only possible. Moreover, it includes two CDs, which come in handy for learning the correct pronunciation.

However, if you are past the beginner level and want to expand your knowledge, this textbook will be absolutely fantastic. It will teach you more and give you a better understanding of not only the language but also the culture – and those two, as we all know, are always inseparable.

So buy the book, learn, and “wear the cherished lei of Hawaiʻi”.


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