What are some Hawaiian words a traveler should learn? Is the Hawaiian language still spoken?
Being from the island I remember growing up and the only times we heard the Hawaiian language were in songs that we learned in elementary school for the May Day program or the Christmas show. Or one of the older members at church that would say a prayer in Hawaiian. The Hawaiian language back then was not considered to be a useful language, it was not used to do business. Then in the mid to late seventies pop radio stations started to mix the play list with songs by groups and individual musicians from Hawaii and some of their songs were sung in Hawaiian and would be on the top songs list along with the regular pop songs and we learned to appreciate and sing along with those songs.
Today things have changed and even in schools one of the choices of languages includes classes for the Hawaiian Language. Hula halau (schools) require students learn and understand what they are dancing about and understand the words and meaning of what they are chanting or dancing to.
Although visitors will not hear locals fluently speaking to each other in Hawaiian, but only a few common Hawaiian words, there are opportunities to hear the Hawaiian language such as Kawaiha'o church in downtown Honolulu where sermons continue to be done in the Hawaiian language. Many hotels have free cultural activities including Hawaiian language.
I think the one word (before all else) that every visitor should know, learn, memorize... is respect. The people of Hawai'i are very, very proud of their culture and history. Too many "visitors" come and forget that it is not their home, and is certainly not just another "state". The Hawaiian people have great respect for the "land" (aina), and of course the sea (kai). They are very protective of them, and appreciate your help (kokua) in watching out for them.
As was mentioned before; "aloha" meaning love, hello, and good-by, and "mahalo" which of course is "thank you"! Both go a long way! (But ask a "local" the correct pronunciation!)
Yes Hawaiian is still spoken and resurgent on the part of native Hawaiians. It is being taught in Hawaiian schools. If you learn and use Aloha (hello), Mahalo (thank you) at a minimum then you will be appreciated. It is not an easy language to learn but there are some guide books that have other basic words and pronunciation tips. I go to Hawaii at least twice per year for the past 10 or more years and try to learn a new word or two each time.