Hawaiian Wisdom, 2018-2020

Note that as of July 23, 2020, the programming quirk within Google Translate which created “Hawaiian Wisdom” appears to have been patched, and thus this site exists as an archive and celebration of that strange period.

But what, where, how, when, why, and who?

I will attempt to answer the six questions that the English language permits: what, where, how, when, why, and who?


Specifically, what is this site? What is it doing?

In 2018 this blog post wrote about a strange phenomenon on Google Translate: it recognised strings of vowels and spaces as Hawaiian, and translated them to English (or any other language) accordingly. It appears that this was because when translating Hawaiian into another language, Google strips away the consonants first.

The results were strange:

eoiaau i ueiaieeouiuoeuoeuiooieuoiiuaeioeouauoue u uoo euouiooauoeoueouiei oo oeoeoo aa eaueieoueooeoiao aeiieeuiuiaaaeiooauoiee a i oo oe


you have to keep in touch with your body and keep your body healthy and healthy

On his original blog post, Mark Liberman wrote a simple script to generate random strings of vowels. This site is based on Mark’s idea: it uses a Python script to generate random strings of vowels, send them to Google Translate, and display what Google Translate thinks it says in Hawaiian. The resulting text is an intriguing jumble of ideas.

random strings of vowelsGoogle TranslateHawaiian Wisdom

random strings of vowels

Google Translate

Hawaiian Wisdom

This site took the idea one stage further - it generated a thousand random strings of vowels, and archived the Google Translations at the time of generation. These odd translations are presented as pseudo-wisdom. Please note, the title “Hawaiian Wisdom” is in no way meant to offend the people, language, or culture of Hawaii. You can click on any of the “Hawaiian” or “English” text on this site to see the original translation yourself in Google Translate. Note that the translations will change over time - to the extent that as of July 23, 2020, they often don’t translate at all.


This project exists on the internet. You can download the code for this project from GitHub, or generate a new piece of ‘wisdom’ directly in Google Translate by clicking New Hawaiian Wisdom at the top of this page (NB as of July 23, 2020, this no longer works).

An earlier version of this code runs as a bot at @hawaiian_wisdom


The coding here is pretty simple: it generates random strings of vowels, sends them to Google Translate, and saves the result. This is then saved to a long text file, which is parsed to a Hexo site. Since the code can no longer be run (as Google have patched this issue), this site is an archive of strange translation.

How Google translates is subject to speculation. See the Language Log blog for more ideas.


This site was built in May 2018. The original bot was created in February 2018. Selected ‘wisdom’ and the code/musing were printed in No Robot, No! by Sidekick Books in October 2018.


I stumbled across Mark Liberman’s blog post earlier this year and was intrigued by the strangely poetic, disjointed voice the mis-translations had. I wanted to use them in auto-generative poetry.


This site was built by Ollie Palmer, an artist based in the Netherlands, using Hexo with a modified version of the Cactus theme.