Don't let the language die
For Pacific Daily News
QuestionGrowing up my grandparents used to ask things like "Why don't most Chamorro people know how to speak Chamorro?"
Chamorro languageThe 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 email@example.com.