I first heard about Fan Translations or "fanslations" of manga books several years ago from my friend and fellow scholar in waiting, Marianna Hernandez. At that point, I had watched a few anime, but never really gotten into manga, and actually had no idea that it had become a huge thing in the United States. I was told last year that manga sales in the United States had far surpassed comic books sales, and at that point I could barely believe it, but today, after reading several mangas and seeing their shelves expand in bookstores, it seems obvious.
Outside of Japan though, the process of getting mangas translated can take a while, and sometimes the publishing in Japan will be years ahead of what it is elsewhere. Apparently, in a million instances of caring for their fellow fans and geeks, there are people out there who fanslate, or take the comics in Japan and scan them, and actually type in translations from the Japanese into their language of choice.
When Marianna had first told me about these, being someone very interested in re-vitalizaing the Chamorro language and speaking to someone who obviously knew about these sorts of issues, my first question was, "are there fanslations in Chamorro?" Marianna's response was dejected but expected "no."
(And to Marianna, despensa yu'. I know I'm supposed to be influencing and corrupting the Chamorro social networks until the point that your family name will become "Bleach." Ai gi este na maloffan na sakkan, mampos tinane' yu' gi eskuela, gi activism yan ko'lo'lo'na put i patgon-hu. Lao gigon na sumasaga' yu' ta'lo giya Guahan, bai hu tutuhun i che'cho' i fina'na'an-mu).
Since then, I've waited patiently until I could find the time and energy to actually create a Chamorro fanslation. At last, over the summer, while I was flying back to the states, I found some time and actually did it. The manga I chose is Kekkaishi, which you can read more about by clicking here, and the chapter I chose to translate, is a beautiful one, which is much less action packed than most people would hope or expect.
My impetus for doing this now, and not simply waiting another two years, is because since my daughter Sumåhi was born, I have been speaking Chamorro to here regularly, whether in person, over the phone, or by recording CD's where I talk and read to her. My hope is that she be fluent in Chamorro, and not simply use the language as a secondary thing, which makes her cooler than other people, but that she actually use it as a primary language, to communicate all the important things of life, love, hate, dreams, pain, etc. But on an island which seems determined to rid itself of the Chamorro language, except for what is "cute" for tourists, this is easier said than done.
Although I have often written that the Chamorro language is declining, because young people are not learning it, retaining it, and older fluent people are not passing it on, or seem to enjoy more teasing people about it, rather than teaching it, I saw many things over the summer which gave me some hope. I spent some time at the Hurao Cultural Camp, and I also saw activists and artists working on building up the Chamorro Cultural Center at Oka' Point. There is alot of hope for the future of the Chamorro people, culture and language, but it will take so much work to bring back the language. One obstacle that we face is the notion that teaching or passing on a language is a simple "gift" gesture. We give it to young kids, teach these kids the language when they are young, make them fluent in it and they have it all their lives. If we look at the language landscape of Guam today, and the landscapes that young children are frequenting, then we must seriously ask ourselves, "what is the point of simply giving a gift to our children." As the world of the internet, schools, malls, homes and churches becomes so shamefully devoid of the Chamorro language, then simply making sure that children can speak it won't revitalize it.
For instance, with the children from the Hurao Chamoru Cultural Camp, it was so inspiring to see them speaking Chamorro at camp, with each other and with their instructors. But when I bumped into some of those same kids at the mall or at Whimsy's, the Chamorro is almost completely gone from them. They weren't able to understand me or respond to me, and with their friends and cousins, simply used English.
To bring back Chamorro, to make it a real and vital language, means not giving one gift, but giving the gift of the Chamorro language, over and over, in as many forms, places and spaces as we can. It means not simply teaching children to know and speak Chamorro, but speaking along with them all their lives and not simply leaving it up to others to do so. It also means, ensuring that they have things to read, to talk about, to listen to. It means filling their life with things which let them know that the language is alive, and there are others speaking it, there are others that they can speak to, and there are plenty of things they can speak about. To simply teach kids in school, or teach kids in camp, or even teach them at home, carries the likely risk that once they leave the home, the prevelance and power of English will simply overwhelm them, and Chamorro will remain a secondary language, used only at the camp, home or school, and nowhere else.
This fanslation of Kekkaishi, is simply one of my many attempts to make sure that the language can be maintained. That perhaps some who don't speak Chamorro, but are interested will see this translation and become more interested, hopefully more committed. Or maybe for some who are trying to learn Chamorro, but struggling, will be able to practice from translations like this. Or maybe one day when Sumåhi is older and she is speaking Chamorro in ways I can even imagine, she'll come across this, and it won't be anything special. Perhaps at that time, they'll be thousands of things written in Chamorro and thousands of kids just like her speaking it everyday and everywhere.
Este i guinife-hu, ya kada ha’åni, gi todu chine’gue-ku, he kekena’fanhuyong este. Para Guahu, para i hagga-hu, yan para todu i taotao Chamorro.
Anyways, I'll have the fanslation done pretty soon, and will distribute it on this blog and probably through Minagahet as well. Email me if you are interested in receiving it, and I'll be sure to get it to you.