Review by Joseph Bean Maui Weekly July 14 2005
Hawaiian is a very demanding language for most adults. You need all the help you can get. Multiple dictionaries are not a mistake.
Even if your interest only goes to understanding chants and songs and translating the names of streets and surf spots you cant get by on what people just happen to say they know. You need to look it up and youll want to look it up in several places to get the whole picture.
That would be the No. 1 reason for picking up a copy of the Pocket Edition Illustrated Hawaiian Dictionary by Kahikahealani Wight illustrated by Robin Yoko Racoma. There are others.
The standard Hawaiian Dictionary by Mary Kawena Pukui and Samuel H. Elbert is an excellent book. You should certainly have that in your library but at around $33 its quite an investment. The pocket version of that dictionary is slimmed down a long way from the hard cover original then given some interesting features.
Still purely as a dictionary time itself has created and in a sense also revealed the weakness of the Pukui-Elbert book. To get modern terminology and words for foreign objects and places you need to add Mamaka Kaiao by the Hawaiian Lexicon Committee.
There you have one of the weaknesses and paradoxically one of the strengths of Wights Illustrated Hawaiian Dictionary. Thats because in this new book the availability of contemporary-word translations is not always a two-way street.
In the English-to-Hawaiian section for example television is translated as kiwi with macrons over both vowels. In the Hawaiian-to-English section no such word is listed. Still thats the direction most of us will usually need to go with modern terms so it becomes the second big reason to buy the new dictionary.
Since this is an illustrated book it would be inappropriate not to mention the illustrations. Whats more the drawings by Racoma are the No. 3 reason to buy the book. The pictures are nicely done. I cant say that they really help with the definitions in the way that the few illustrations in a Columbia or Websters might but they may help attract youthful attention. Thats enough to ask of them.
Young readers may sometimes be taken aback by the length and complexity of the model sentences. For instance in translating the English dolphin to the Hawaiian naia the sentence is Holo anei na naia me na kohola I ka hooilo? That is Do dolphins swim with humpback whales in the rainy season? Pretty far from See spot run no?
If you dont have a Hawaiian dictionary start with this one. It is very affordable and will serve you well for a long time. You can graduate to multiple dictionaries later. By then youll want to replace your worn copy of Wights Illustrated Hawaiian Dictionary.