“Learning Chamorro Outside of a Classroom”
by Sandy Uslander
February 24, 2013
In the previous weeks I have shared current efforts to teach the Chamorro language outside of the islands. While it has been inspiring to learn about these opportunities, obviously many aspiring Chamorro speakers do not have access to study in this type of formal setting. This sent me on a quest to find the best resources for learning the language on your own.
The start of this investigation was where many of us go when we want to make connections across the miles: Facebook. I asked the question, “What is the best resource you have found to learn or brush up on your Chamorro language”? I also did my own online searches and inquired from knowledgeable individuals.
The Facebook discussion did not provide any help at first, mostly one guy I’ll call “J” who said I would never learn the real Chamorro because it was essentially gone. That was not what I wanted to hear.
From my individual inquiries I did get recommendations for two sites, www.LearnChamorro.com, and www.Guampedia.com (you need to look for “Chamorro” under “Lesson Plans”).
Later, Facebook came back with a recommendation for www.Chamoru.info/dictionary, which is helpful and widely used. There was also mention of a closed Facebook group dedicated to the use of the Chamorro language. The discussion here included many of the news and resources that I had seen in other places, including www.Paleric.blogspot.com, and www.minagahet.blogspot.com.
There was also another post from “J” who said my best hope of learning the language was to find a group of old Chamorro speakers at a barbecue and ask them to teach me. Again, he wasn’t encouraging.
In my own research, I came upon lessons on www.OffIsland.com. There is also a government site at www.ns.gov.gu that provides an almost overwhelming number of Chamorro cultural resources. Scrolling down the home page you can find a link to “Learn the Chamorro Language”, which takes you to lists of vocabulary and phrases at www.uog2.uog.edu.lessonz/.
Some of my favorite video resources are the Word of the Day and Chagi Chamorro produced by the Hurao Academy on Guam and available on their YouTube channel, http://www.youtube.com/user/huraoguahan. I must also mention the most useful dictionary that I have found, the Chamorro-English Dictionary by Topping, Ogo and Dungca, a standard, first published in 1975.
As great as all these resources are, I have to wonder if they alone can really teach you the language. You have to learn so much about pronunciation and what is common usage, and you just have to get into the habit of speaking it. Recently, Dr. Robert Underwood wrote an opinion in the PDN entitled, “Preserve the Chamorro language by using it,” and in it he says, “If we are going to create a Chamorro-speaking community, we must have Chamorro language immersion programs…” This is a prominent educator involved in the Chamorro language discussion for three decades. It occurs to me that these language tools need to work together with actual use of the language.
Back to Facebook, I find a message from a kind stranger I’ll call “D”: “Sandy, I’ll teach you. Where do you live? Or better yet, am just a phone call away”. Then “J” again chimes in. As I get ready for another of his discouraging posts, I’m pleased to read his response: “And THAT is how you learn Chamorro”, he says. Maybe he has a point after all.