Friday, November 30, 2012

Ukon I Manaina-ta

November 30, 2012

Preserving Chamorro songs and chants: Concert highlights efforts of group

By Lacee A.C. Martinez
Pacific Daily News
Guam has a long tradition of family gatherings during the holidays, where prayers are said and music is sung — often in Chamorro.
These traditions, however, have been slipping away, taking the music and language with it.
Through a grant from the Association of Native Americans, Pa’a Taotao Tano’ has been working to preserve much of the music, as well as the newer chants and songs sung in Guam’s native tongue. Tomorrow is your chance to hear some of that music live in concert.
Pa’a Taotao Tano’ and the ANA present a Chamorro music concert to launch a songbook and CD, “I Ukon I Mañaina-ta, Chants and Songs from Our Elders.”
The concert will feature the St. Francis Children’s Choir, EMMAUS! Choir, the San Isidro Catholic Church Christian Mothers and the Pa’a Taotao Tano’ Chanters performing the music documented and recorded in the project.
The work to perpetuate and share the songs nearly lost to the previous generations began in 2010, says Nicole Calvo, project director for Pa’a Taotao Tano’s Chamorro language through chants, prayers and song project.
Two resource tools
The goal was to produce two resource tools — a musically notated songbook and a CD recording of some of the select songs from the book.
The project included a year of interviews with: manamko’ on and off island; techas, prayer leaders from the churches; and the fafanague, the dance leaders of the different guma, or houses, that fall under Pa’a Taotao Tano’. Pa’a Taotao Tano’ is an umbrella organization of 11 different dance groups of Chamorro cultural practitioners, Calvo says.
“We interviewed the manamko’ and talked to them about some of their childhood memories of some of the songs,” she says. “Many of them came back to us singing some of the secular songs and most especially the non-secular — the religious church songs from ... novenas and so forth. We kind of captured that.”
The second year of the project began the transcription of some of the songs into musical notes, for the songbook, which is comprised of some 70 songs — secular and non-secular.
Some of the music includes original compositions from musicians such as Bill Paulino and Cathy Calvo Cruz, who directs the St. Francis Children’s Choir and also worked to document the music with the project.
“We have had a couple of people who had passed away, like a woman named Bernadita Tenorio who had collected volumes and transcribed so many Chamorro songs,” Calvo says. “The family allowed us to go ahead and use her original compositions.”
Family legacy
 Cruz belongs to a family that continues to share a legacy of tradition in novenas.
“My mother’s novena is a continuation from her mother’s and her mother’s mother’s traditions,” Cruz says. “We’re realizing that this is not going to continue unless we make sure it’s absolutely out there physically, not only that our families can benefit but our entire island. If we lose that, we lose who we are entirely and it’s becoming scary. If we don’t make a concerted effort to bring something from the past and make it concrete, we’re going to lose it.”
The project includes secular songs such as “Atan Jesu Kristo” and “Kantayi Gue,” as well as other songs that would have been sung in church or at novenas.
“We have a really beautiful mix of little snippets of our identity,” Cruz says. “Once you sing that, it just gives you a sense of wow — I’m glad I still sing this song.”
The project also includes original chants, many of which have come from Pa’a Taotao Tano’ creative director Frank Rabon, who’s revered as a master of Chamorro dance, Calvo says.
“Over the years, with the help of other students and colleagues, he’s written chants that go with dances and the songs,” she says. “A lot of it, we knew it was very important to capture that and musically notate it for people to enjoy for generations to come.”
If you miss the concert, you will be able to purchase the CD and songbook at the Pa’a Taotao Tano’ office in Hagåtña.
“The next part of this is to take them into the different gumas — the dance houses — and teach that to the children and youth to also learn how to sing it,” Calvo says. “Hopefully from that we’ll be teaching them the Chamorro language as well.”

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Un Puengi Ta'lo

Jesus "Chamorro" Charfauros

 Un puengi ta'lo

Chamorro radio fans honor decades of 'Oba Skoba'

2:00 PM, Nov. 1, 2012
Dozens of Chamorro music fans gathered on Sept. 29 to honor a man who helped make Chamorro music popular through the radio airways.

"One More Night with Jesus 'Chamorro' Charfauros" was held at the Kahida Room in the Guam Plaza Hotel on Sept. 29.

It was a night filled with live Chamorro music with some Chamorro music legends, including Flora Baza Quan, Ike Charfauros, John Acfalle, Ben "Lam Lam" San Nicolas, Rose Certeza, and others.
In the 1970s and '80s, Jesus "Chamorro" Charfauros was a driving force behind Chamorro music on Guam. He ruled the airwaves with his 610AM show, "Programma Chamorrita," incorporating song and the Chamorro language into the music diet of island residents.

And when there wasn't enough Chamorro music to fill the airwaves, he and his brothers, Tommy and Ike Charfauros, would record artists themselves to fill the gaps.

He worked with various local artists throughout the years and many of them came out to sing at the event to honor him. Jesus Chamorro retired several years ago.

Those that remember him on the radio came to love his rhythmic patter, quirky personality and humorous way with words, coining such slang as "oba skoba," meaning "over the top" or "too much."
Big Beat Guam and KISH 102.9 hosted the event, which paid tribute to the man who helped thrust Chamorro music into the mainstream.

Hosts for the evening were Helen "Island Girl" Aguon from Isla 63 and Johnny Z from MegaMixx.
Sens. Ben Pangelinan and Tom Ada, who are running for re-election, presented Charfauros with a legislative resolution honoring his 50-plus years of promoting Chamorro culture and music.

Charfauros started off his speech with a big yell of "Oba skoba!" which got the crowd excited. He thanked everyone for coming to the event to honor him and said, "It's a beautiful night" in Chamorro.
Mark Charfauros, his son, says the family was happy to see friends and family come out to honor his father. He says his father pushed for Chamorro language and culture preservation, and it was fitting that the night was filled with Chamorro music.

In May, the University of Guam bestowed upon Jesus Charfauros the Master of Micronesian Traditional Knowledge honorary degree -- a rare honor.

Mary Blas, 43, says it was a great event and says she remembers listening to Charfauros back in the day. Blas says she was happy to come out to the event because she was able to listen to some of her favorite Chamorro artists live.

"It's not very often that you see so many Chamorro singers in one room," she says.

By Jerick Sablan Pika staff

Friday, November 2, 2012

Refaluwasch and Chamorro Language Materials in CNMI

CNMI: Refaluwasch and Chamorro Language Materials Show Value of Congressional “Earmarks”

Guam News - Guam News 
Saipan - Students in 16 Public School System schools are learning and using their Refaluwasch and Chamorro languages as a result of new instructional materials the Public School System has created with a $250,000 earmarked appropriation from Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan.
The Congressman got to see a selection of the book, flipcharts, and other learning aids that the PSS bilingual program has produced using the earmark funds at this month’s Board of Education meeting. A total of 7,560 books, 150 flip charts, and a series of 16 videos were produced with the congressionally directed funding.

“It’s great to see the results of the work that we did in Congress way back in 2009 finally getting into the hands of our young Refaluwasch and Chamorro language students,” Sablan said.

“Because getting the funding is just the first step. Then there is all of the work to put the money to effective use in our schools: translating the materials, getting everything printed and filmed, and training teachers in how to use these resources.

“PSS and the Chamorro and Carolinian Language Heritage Studies program have done a fine job in that respect.”

Sablan submitted his $250,000 proposal for bilingual study funds during the fiscal year 2010 appropriation cycle; and after making it through the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate the bill with Sablan’s money was signed by the President on December 16, 2009. Altogether Sablan won $1.35 million in congressionally directed funding, or “earmarks,” for the Northern Marianas in FY10. Most went to education.

PSS was formally awarded the funding, after submitting the necessary plan of expenditure, in August of 2010 and has been working on putting the money to use in the intervening years.

PSS bought the rights to translate newly published, Common Core aligned, Bright and Brainy Resource Books for grades K-6 into Refaluwasch and Chamorro. Professional development/work sessions were held for local teachers to work on the translations.

[Congressman Kilili, Board of Education Members, PSS administrators, and students are all smiles looking over books, flip charts, and other instructions materials that have been translated in Refaluwasch and Chamorro and published for use in 16 public schools. The work was paid for with a $250,000 earmark that Congressman Sablan had included in the FY10 congressional appropriation for education. The money also paid for training staff in the use of materials. The project was carried out by the Chamorro and Carolinian Language Heritage Studies program at PSS.]

The grant also underwrote the cost of producing a first-ever televised program that took language lessons right into the homes of Northern Marianas viewers and provided teachers with a total of 16 episodes to be used in classrooms.

FY10 was the last fiscal year that congressional earmarks were available. Senate Republicans, who objected to the earmarking process on principle, killed the FY11 appropriation with the threat of a filibuster. That appropriation contained another $2 million for the Northern Marianas, including funds for the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument Visitors Center, a Rota school gymnasium, a Seniors program on Tinian, and another $500,000 for PSS.

“We have seen the last of earmarks,” Sablan said, “as long as Republicans are able to block legislation in this way.

“That makes it especially hard for small places like the Northern Marianas, which now have to compete for funds against states and cities that have a lot more resources to put into grant writing.

“I am glad to see, however, that the funds we did get – for the Refaluwasch and Chamorro language programs, for the Joeten-Kiyu Library roof repairs, for the Garapan Public Market, for the Monument Visitors Center – are being put to use now to benefit the Northern Marianas.”

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Don't Let the Language Die

Don't let the language die

2:00 PM, Aug. 3, 2012  
Written by
Joanne Camacho
For Pacific Daily News


Growing up my grandparents used to ask things like "Why don't most Chamorro people know how to speak Chamorro?"

Chamorro language

The Chamorro language is dying. My grandma can speak it, my mom can speak it, but somewhere in between my mom and me, the language somehow disappeared.

When I was a child our first language was English. The only time the adults spoke to us in Chamorro was when we were in trouble. We knew all the warning signs. Nangga ta actually means "wait," but when you're in trouble it's more like "just wait until I get you," or mangge sentoron, meaning "where's the belt?"

When it came to actually speaking directly to us they opted to use English because it's the language we understood clearly. My grandma still gets frustrated when she asks me for something and I stop and give her a puzzled look as I try to put the words together. I always tell her to hold on and give me a minute to figure it out, but sometimes she just doesn't have the patience and yells at me in English.
I vaguely remember learning Chamorro in school. It definitely was not a requirement in private schools when I was growing up and it still isn't in some schools. However, all public schools on Guam are required by law to teach the Chamorro language in elementary, middle and high schools as part of their curriculum. So, hopefully, it's not as dead as we think.

Children can learn the language at school and bring it home with them. Then, at home, adults should continue to speak to their children in Chamorro and then hopefully one day these children will learn to speak to other children in Chamorro.

So it seems the reason why the language is dying is mainly because people don't speak it. People don't speak it because other people don't understand it. One way to preserve the language is by speaking it. Those who know the language should teach it to their children, their families, their friends and even their coworkers.

We need to keep the Chamorro language going. It's an important part of our background. It's what makes us who we are.

Joanne Camacho is a graduate of Notre Dame High School and has been a resident of Guam most of her life. She has extensive experience in retail, marketing and business management. She is married with two children and currently resides in Tamuning. Ask her anything about Guam at

Friday, May 25, 2012

Not Just a Relic

"Not Just a Relic"
by Michael Lujan Bevacqua
Wednesday, 14 Mar 2012
The Marianas Variety

ONE of the reasons the Chamorro language is dying is because it isn’t used for that many things. Make no mistake, the Chamorro language is a real language, but over the past century, Chamorros have slowly let it fade and become very narrow in use. As the world around them changed dramatically in the 20th century, and Chamorros saw their own culture changing as well, they did not keep their language up to date. They did not use their language to map out this new world, but simply accepted English words and the English languages as the best means to do so. This acceptance was different than the Chamorro incorporation of Spanish words in prior centuries, since that adaptation didn’t lead to Chamorros throwing away the language. Since World War II, the adoption of English has led to the decline of Chamorro.

What this has amounted to is that while the Chamorro language remains alive, it is actually dead in most places and spaces that Chamorro inhabit. Studies have shown this narrowing of language use, where Chamorro is spoken in primarily social ways, as fragments of conversations at churches or fiestas or the telling of jokes, isn’t truly the way in which most Chamorros communicate. For example, parents once used Chamorro when they were angry, but the rest of the time English. The lack of Chamorro in new technology is particularly apparent. For every person who can type in Chamorro on Facebook, there are hundreds who can’t write more than “hafa adai.”

Although Guam has changed to the point where we no longer condemn people for speaking Chamorro or teaching their kids Chamorro, the hierarchy persists between languages. The ways in which Chamorros switch to English for certain things is not solely about comfort, because they may not be able to fully speak about something in Chamorro. It is also tied to this idea that Chamorro is for certain things, while English is for others. English is for those things that are important in a wider, public sense. It connects you to the world and to other ethnicities, while Chamorro connects you to less, and therefore becomes a more private language.

One way of conceiving this is through spicy food. The spice in the food is the Chamorro language. It tastes nice, but it isn’t what actually feeds you. In the same way, many people use Chamorro in a limited way, to add flavor to conversations, but not for much else. The implicit lesson is that this is what English does; it is the language that actually feeds you. Eating bland food may be boring, but you’ll live. But try eating only spice and see how far you get.

The language is in this state today because its boundaries are no longer being pushed and adapting. Rather than working to make the world around us intelligible through the Chamorro language, we just switch to English in order to make sense. A healthy language is one that we wouldn’t just use to say hello and goodbye or make a joke here or there, but it is one where we can potentially talk about anything and everything in the language. We can discuss politics, we can discuss TV shows, we can discuss Pokemon. The Chamorro language is disappearing because rather than working to keep our language strong and being able to talk about everything Chamorros experience or encounter in their lives, we left that job to English.

I’ve sometimes tried, in my own silly ways, to help expand this narrowness of the Chamorro language, to use it to talk about things that Maga’lahi Mata’pang and Hurao might have never imagined possible. On my blog “No Rest for the Awake,” I’ve made a habit of writing in Chamorro about things most Chamorros consider sacrilegious to twist the Chamorro language around. I’ve written about video games, pop culture, philosophy, presidential politics and even Bollywood movies. One of my more popular ways of doing this was a few years back when I took several manga, or Japanese comic books such as Naruto, and translated them into Chamorro. I then used scans of the comic and erased the original Japanese text and inserted the new Chamorro translation.

Obviously the audience for this was pretty small, since not many people who are inclined to read manga can read Chamorro, but I still felt like it was important symbolically. It was a way of asserting that the Chamorro language has to be able to describe whatever Chamorros do today, not just what they did 500 or 100 years ago, and that a strong, healthy language can adapt to fit their current lifestyle. It doesn’t just become a relic of our past, but is something following us as we move through history.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Breathe Life into the Chamorro Language

Breathe life into Guam's language, culture
Mar. 5, 2012
The Pacific Daily News

Let us imagine what it would be like if we could hear ourselves once again in the sounds of our language, the Chamorro language, the language of this homeland. When I hear the spoken language, it is like music to my ears.

The ancient Chamorro people arrived in the Mariana Archipelago thousands of years ago and lived on this beautiful chain of islands called the Gåni Islands. For thousands of years, the Chamorro language was alive and healthy as the people before us transmitted knowledge of the land through the spoken language. Language and culture was inhaled and exhaled through the sights and sounds of daily experiences within the Mariana Archipelago.

Generations lived and died while the language and culture carried with it the history and experiences of intertwined lives of island peoples. Knowledge of the environment and its secrets were deeply entrenched within the native peoples' lives.

In order for our language to survive in the Gåni Islands (Mariana Islands), we as Chamorro people must be strategic about it. There are many layers within our society; environment and communities that need to come together in unity in order for the Chamorro language to be breathed and to have recognition and life within the Mariana Islands. We may have our differences; however, we need to be of one mind when it comes to awakening and restoring the Chamorro language and culture.
Here are more thoughts on breathing life back into our language and culture:

•We have to be united in restoring our self-identity as peoples of this land. The Chamorro people were the first people of the Mariana Islands and we are still here walking the same ground our ancestors have walked on.

•We have to be committed not only in words, but in action for restoring our spoken Chamorro language. Our language and culture are deeply rooted to this land that we walk on daily.

•For the Chamorro language to be seen, there must be signs in Chamorro language in public buildings and public spaces, including street names.

•For the language to be heard, it must be spoken actively in as many settings in private and public spaces and domains.

•For the language to be actively spoken, it must be appropriated and be given opportunities for speaking and engaging people to speak it, such as in meetings, media, etc.

•For the language to be taught, it has to be made available to the native communities (and to others who choose to have it) at all age levels beginning with daycares, pre-schools, kindergarten, elementary, middle, high schools and post-secondary institutions. Teachings have to be in an immersion setting for maximum effectiveness. Chamorro immersion schools are critical for language revival.

•Our post-secondary institutions should have intensive studies in Chamorro language and cultures.

•We have to engage the different layers within our public and private communities and environments to help restore our Chamorro language in public domains and spaces. For instance, private organizations/hotels who hold summer camps may consider basic Chamorro language as one of their components of summer camps for young children.

•We have to create more language materials that will support our language schools and learners for the children of today and tomorrow. Chamorro language resources can be housed in a Chamorro Language and Culture Resource Center (Sahgåyan Guinahan Tiningo' Chamorro) for easy accessibility to the general public.

•We need to create a Chamorro Language Immersion Commission Task Force that will commit to "spoken language restoration and awakening" on Guam.

Some of these things are happening now. However, we are at a crossroads when it comes to our Chamorro language. We can work together to breathe life into the language and place it back where it belongs, alive and speaking it on this land.

Just imagine Chamorro language daycares throughout the island -- the east, north, south, and west, and children, young people and adults speaking our language. This would give honor and respect to our peoples and our ancestors -- i man mofo'na na taotao tåno'. Gef pa'go i fino' taotao tåno'!

Mina Sablan is a resident of Chalan Pago.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Chamorro Classes are Needed in Schools

Chamorro classes are needed in our schools

This is in response to Kaeshier Fernandez's letter regarding Chamorro education as "unnecessary, inconvenient, and uneconomical." First of all, I am glad to see a student voicing an opinion and challenging the curriculum. The freedom to express a dissenting opinion is one which continues to make our country great.

Additionally, I am saddened to see that Kaeshier's experiences have led him to feel that learning Chamorro in school was a waste of time and resources. However, that does not necessarily reflect the view of all students.

I recall the newfound appreciation for my culture and sense of self when I could finally piece together a few simple Chamorro sentences. I still remember the day I had a conversation with my grandfather in Chamorro and told him I got married. Now, I am a seasoned teacher at Untalan Middle School and I've seen firsthand how students not only enjoy learning the language, but also cultural aspects, such as weaving, singing and dancing. By the way, I am not a Chamorro teacher, but I know some really great ones at my school.

Let's keep in mind that not everything we take in school is going to grace a college resume. By that line of reasoning, we should give up art, home economics and many of the other electives students enjoy because most colleges don't care if you can draw, cook or sew.

Finally, yes, learning Chamorro is required because the alternative is to do nothing. Are we going to give up on Chamorro, which survived several foreign occupations, because some students don't like to take the class? Foreigners tried to kill, beat and fine the language out of our ancestors and, against all odds, it still exists. Can you imagine if it finally died out because we said, "Our chances are slim and some kids are complaining."

As a student sitting through another lesson on transitive verbs might, it's natural to wonder what it's all for, but there is a larger picture to be seen. The things that touch our soul -- art, music, culture -- may not be necessary, convenient or economical, but fill an intangible need that goes beyond the academia that pads a college application.

Letter to the Editor
Guam PDN

Monday, February 20, 2012

Native American Languages On the Brink

Native American Languages Siletz Dee-Ni, Ashininaabemowin Facing 'Extinction'

By: Clara Moskowitz, LiveScience Senior Writer
Published: 02/17/2012 06:56 PM EST on LiveScience

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Many of the world's minority languages, some spoken by only a handful of speakers, are on the brink of extinction, and community activists and scientists are teaming to try to keep them alive.

One example is the Native American language Siletz Dee-ni, which was once spoken widely by native people in Oregon, but which now may be spoken fluently by only one man: Alfred "Bud" Lane.

"We're a small tribe on the central Oregon coast," Lane said via telephone here at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. "Like most small groups of people, our pool of speakers has been reduced over a period of time, until the 1980s when very few speakers were left. Linguists labeled it 'moribund.'" [Q&A: Dead Languages Reveal a Lost World]

But Lane and his community decided to fight back.
Talking dictionaries

"Our people and council decided that was not going to happen," Lane said. "We devised a plan to go forward and begin teaching our dialect on the reservation."
Now schoolchildren in theSiletz Valley School learn Siletz Dee-ni two days a week. Lane said they're picking it up faster than he ever hoped.

Still, the coast isn't clear. Whether Siletz Dee-ni can become spoken well enough, and by a large enough group of people to continue being used in daily life remains to be seen.

"Language extinction is not an inevitability, although it is a very strong trend that is going on right now," said K. David Harrison, a linguist at Swarthmore College who worked with Lane to assemble an online talking dictionary of more than 14,000 words in the Siletz Dee-ni language.

The dictionary, sponsored by National Geographic's Enduring Voices project and the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages, is just one of many linguists are compiling to record the world's dwindling collection of endangered languages before it's too late.
What we stand to lose

As native peoples assimilate more and more into the dominant cultures around them, and as younger generations grow up speaking dominant languages like English in school and with their peers, fewer and fewer people are becoming fluent in native tongues. In the past, government repression of native languages and ethnic shame has also seriously hindered the survival of these languages, researchers on a panel here said.

But if the world loses these languages, it loses more than just another way of saying the same thing, experts argue.

There is a "vast knowledge base, knowledge of plants, animals, how to live sustainably, that is contained uniquely in those languages," Harrison said. "We are all enriched when small language communities choose to share their knowledge."

Studying the languages also teaches linguists new language patterns, and helps preserve other elements of native culture such as foods and traditions.
Teetering on the brink

But what does it take for a threatened language to stay alive?

Margaret Noori, a professor at the University of Michigan and a speaker of Ashininaabemowin, the native language of the Ojibwe people indigenous to the Great Lakes area, not only speaks the native language, she also sings and writes poetry in Ashininaabemowin. [Recording: Ashininaabemowin Song]

"For it to be considered alive, we need to be creating in it," Noori told LiveScience. "Otherwise it's like studying Latin."

Noori teaches Ashininaabemowin language classes at the University of Michigan, and runs a website,, to collect recordings of Ashininaabemowin speakers. She also harnesses social media such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to spread the word about the language.

Still, despite the hard efforts of many people, the continued survival of Ashininaabemowin is not assured.

"If I'm honest, statistically, I'd say it doesn't look very good," Noori said. She estimates there are fewer than 15,000 speakers of the language left, and possibly as few as 5,000. Eighty percent of Anishinaabemowin speakers are older than 65.

Despite the odds, though, she and other native language advocates don't plan to give up.
"We have a whole new generation of people coming up that sing our songs, learn our traditions," Lane said. "We were teetering on the brink, and I think we've finally turned the corner and reversed that now."
You can follow LiveScience senior writer Clara Moskowitz on Twitter @ClaraMoskowitz. For more science news, follow LiveScience on twitter @livescience.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Finding a New Purpose in the Chamorro Language

Finding new purpose in Chamorro language

THERE continues to be noticeable reverberation surrounding GDOE’s Chamorro Language Program and its ineffectiveness as a mandate for preserving the island’s native tongue.The absence of any supporting evidence, particularly in the form of data compiled through a formal Chamorro language assessment tool that substantiates Chamorro proficiency among public school students, has brought forth irrational policy-making based on what seems on the surface as personal beliefs and posturing to cultural correctness.Before attempts at passing additional laws which are economically and strategically flawed, policy-makers and legislators alike must first consider two limiting factors that sway in the face of the Chamorro language dilemma: language dominance and language purpose.

First, if it has not yet become apparent to GDOE’s leadership, English is and has been the dominant language on Guam for the last 40 years.This will not change if the response at preserving the Chamorro language continues to come as irrational and illogical judgments favoring expansion of Chamorro curriculum within GDOE. Any passion of loyalty and obligation to Chamorro heritage should not overshadow a greater sense of strategic responsibility and planning, and the fact that Chamorro speakers will continue to be an endangered minority on Guam. Passion without common sense is as meaningless as “boyoing” one’s head half clean and wrapping around a “saude” in this modern age.

Second, although there is prevailing dominance of the English language on Guam, its strength can be diluted by first ensuring that the Chamorro language evolves to be more purposeful and rewarding in daily life throughout Guam society. Presently for the majority of students in GDOE, the sole purpose for learning Chamorro is wholly for compliance rather than for a need or urgency. More specifically, the Chamorro language fails at having personal relevance outside of its historical significance and curricular mandate for a majority of Guamanians. Therefore, new approaches that incorporate a greater purpose for Chamorro language use must be realized through bold changes in public policy.

In an attempt at developing social purpose in the use of the Chamorro language, educational leaders should first establish a graduation requirement stating, “No student may graduate from a Guam Public High School without first passing a Chamorro Proficiency Exam in listening, speaking, reading, and writing.” Within this scenario, the responsibility for learning Chamorro shifts from the institution of learning to the home, and ultimately society as a whole. Imagine how much more beneficial it would be if this concept were extended to those about to graduate from the University of Guam or the Guam Community College. Another purposeful shift can also occur if a government-wide “Chamorro Speaking Only” policy were implemented, where everyone’s livelihood would suddenly become dependent on comprehending and speaking Chamorro. And, what if GDOE could take the millions it presently spends on teaching Chamorro and instead develop a monthly Chamorro-speaking contest, where $20,000 in prizes could be given out to the most proficient Chamorro speakers? Wouldn’t there be tremendous savings within GDOE and at the same time an establishment of genuine purpose and reward that all Guamanians can participate in?

The English poet, philosopher and critic Samuel Taylor Coleridge once said, “Language is the armory of the human mind, and at once contains the trophies of its past and the weapons of its future conquests.” Mai’la pago ya ta u’sa i tohm’to’ta para ta na fo’na, gof la’la, yan kinalamten i lingua’hita para todu i tao’tao Guahan. Ti i eskuelan publiku ha ni mu’na fo’fona i lina’la I koturan Chamoru. Prisisu na ta na mas metgot i plan’un linguahita, ni sina mas u mu’na sao’nao todu i rasas siha. O’la’ mohon ya sina ta taka este na punto!

Elwin Champaco Quitano,

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Keep the Chamorro Language Alive

Keep the Chamorro Language Alive
by Mina Sablan
The Pacific Daily News

Just imagine this: If you were the last Chamorro speaker and you hold the experiences and knowledge of thousands of years of life here in Guam and the Mariana Islands ... and there is no one that understands who and what you carry in your inner self.

The Chamorro language is a world language given to the Chamorro people by our creator. It is our responsibility to keep the Chamorro language alive.

"Every 14 days a language dies. By 2100, more than half of the more than 7,000 languages spoken on Earth -- many of them not yet recorded -- may disappear, taking with them a wealth of knowledge about history, culture, the natural environment, and the human brain." (National Geographic).

Public Law 31-45 will help to address the need to revive the native Chamorro language. However, if the Chamorro language is to survive and not become extinct, transformation has to happen primarily within the native Chamorro population, collectively. Many have concentrated on protecting cultural perpetuation. However, language has been dormant within the native Chamorro population itself.

We, as Chamorro people, need to look within ourselves and decide whether we truly want to breathe life back into our Chamorro language. Public laws help, but collective, collaborative and committed actions within our communities will transform the dormant language. We cannot depend solely on the Chamorro teachers within our school system to educate our children. Language cannot live in books, documentaries and classrooms alone. Language is a living and breathing thing, it must be spoken in everyday experiences and settings in order for it to stay alive.

We can start to do certain things:

•In order for the Chamorro language to survive, we as Chamorro people must recognize that we have to take full responsibility for its survival. We must help each other to breathe life into the language and give it the prestige it once had in our islands. It requires concerted efforts and an abundance of dedicated labor to bring it back to its prestigious places and spaces within our communities. We have to believe that it is important; otherwise, it will become extinct.

•We have to recognize that learning the Chamorro language is not about making money, but about keeping a world language alive for generations to come, keeping knowledge of navigation, plants, animals and ocean life that have been perpetuated for thousands of years.

•We have to focus our full attention as to how we can bring back the Chamorro language within our families, clans and communities, collectively and collaboratively. There was so much pain, hurt and language loss in the past. Many have experienced trauma due to the language policies of the past. We can help each other going forward as we breathe life back into the Chamorro language and regain our self-identity as Chamorro peoples.

•We have to choose to be proactive and contribute in positive ways to breathe life back into our Chamorro language, apart from the classrooms.

•We have to incorporate qualitative and quantitative time and increase the familial and public spaces where we communicate in our native Chamorro language.

•The Chamorro and the English languages are the official languages of Guam, but Chamorro is hardly spoken in public settings. It is only when we consciously as Chamorro people take ownership and choose to speak our language as adults and teach our children that it is crucial for survival and self-identity of the Chamorro people, that we will be able to ensure that our children also will speak it.

•We who speak the language must help those who want to learn the language with enduring patience and perseverance. We who know the language must speak it when we are with other Chamorros who speak the language. For us who know the language, but are dormant and sleeping within our inner selves, let us make a conscious decision whether we will partake in the Chamorro language revival by awakening it in ourselves. For those who want to learn the Chamorro language, be persistent and don't give up; you are contributing to the revival and perpetuation of the Chamorro language.

•Reviving the Chamorro language is a huge undertaking; negative criticism is not welcome, only positive recommendations, actions and contributions from all who want to help, Chamorro or not.

•There are dialectic differences within the Chamorro language, let us honor those differences.

Let us retrieve the Chamorro language knowledge we have in us, sharpen it and speak it into the atmosphere in Guam and the Mariana Islands. Let us reclaim and awaken our beautiful Chamorro language and culture in our daily experiences; through positive actions. It truly has to start with us that know the language.

Mina Sablan is a resident of Chalan Pago.

Monday, January 9, 2012

More Chamorro Classes at GDOE

Extra classes may cost $11M: DOE works to implement additional Chamorro courses

Meryl Dillman
The Pacific Daily News

Public middle and high school students must take additional Chamorro language and culture classes by school year 2014-2015 under Guam law, raising concerns about cost to the Department of Education and the future of college-bound students.

The law could add millions of dollars to the Guam Department of Education's annual budget to pay for extra teachers, equipment, materials and, possibly, new facilities, DOE officials acknowledged.

High school students face the possibility of having fewer electives to take.

Debra Duenas, who has a son in middle school, is concerned about the possible reduction in electives to make room for the additional Chamorro lessons.

"Electives are needed to round out your education," said Duenas, a librarian at Juan Q. San Miguel Elementary School.

More courses

Currently, public school students are required to take Chamorro class in every year of elementary school, one year in middle school and one year in high school.

Public Law 31-45, which was Bill 95-31 written by Sen. Mana Silva Taijeron, states that seventh-graders should be included by school year 2013-2014, and eighth graders by the following school year. It also states ninth-graders in high school will take mandatory Chamorro course work by school year 2013-2014 and 10th-graders are to be included to the program the next school year.

Additional costs

Ronald Laguana, administrator for Guam DOE's Chamorro Studies Division, said it's been estimated that it could cost $11 million a year to pay for full implementation of the new requirements.

To implement the requirements, the education agency may have to add roughly 50 more teachers, which means more money to pay their salaries and benefits. It also will mean more equipment, supplies and facilities, said Jimmy Teria, a Chamorro language and culture specialist in the Chamorro Studies Division. The money would need to be appropriated to DOE by the Guam Legislature, as part of the department's budget, over the course of the implementation of the new requirements.

Cutting electives

Right now, students need 24 credits to graduate from high school -- six credits per year over four years.
The implementation of the new requirements still is being worked on, so it's unclear how adding an additional year of Chamorro language and culture will be handled, but a committee has been formed to address the implementation of the new requirements, education officials said.

Joseph Sanchez, acting deputy superintendent of Curriculum and Instructional Improvement, said the removal of a credit to accommodate the new Chamorro class requirements is a likely option. It most likely will be an elective that is removed, he said, because he can't imagine anyone wanting to remove a core course.

Sanchez said the community has to be aware of the fact that some things will have to be removed from the curriculum in order to accommodate the new requirements.

Taijeron said it never was the intention to overshadow or downplay the importance of other subject matters, and there are other options.

"Instead of cutting classes, there are other ways to incorporate the language and culture into those classes," she said.

For example, she said, Chamorro dancing could be incorporated into a physical education class or Chamorro music and art could be added to art classes. This could create a dual-credit course.

"There are many ideas, and it really doesn't have to mean cutting back anywhere in the Department of Education," she said. "Of course, it will have an impact on the curriculum, but it doesn't mean other classes will have to suffer."


Taijeron said she introduced the legislation because she grew up in an era on Guam when language and culture weren't a focus in school.

"We have an opportunity to offer this to our children, and there's such a passion for it," she said.

She also said she feels it's her duty as an elected official to do her part to be sure the children of Guam have an opportunity to learn the culture and language.

When a public hearing was held on the bill, there was overwhelming support, Taijeron said. The law was passed unanimously.

Laguana said the law is a positive move because people thrive on language and culture. He also said he thinks the program will be funded.

"I'm sure the Legislature wouldn't pass bills and have it non-funded," he said. "When the time comes, it will be funded."


If the goal is to teach children and the community about the Chamorro language and culture, more work needs to be done than just in the schools, Duenas said.

She said teaching language is more of a grassroots and community issue and it needs to be spoken and taught at home and in the community for it truly to be effective.

Duenas said her son, who has been taking Chamorro classes in school and is half Chamorro, doesn't really speak the language.

Duenas has lived on Guam her entire adult life, but isn't Chamorro and doesn't speak the language, so she can't incorporate it at home and immerse her son in the language and culture, she said.