Friday, October 08, 2010
The Chamorro Language is Disappearing
The month of October is full of Chamorro related events, with the Micronesian Island Fair next week, as well as the Mina'Kuattro na Konferensian Chamorro. The week after there are Chamorro Language Forums for Senatorial and Gubernatorial candidates at UOG.
With all these things going on, I decided that for next week I would write on the Chamorro language.
A few weeks ago, Pa'a Taotao Tano' released the results of its six-month study on the state of the Chamorro language on Guam. Two years ago, I helped write a similar grant for the San Diego-based Chamorro organization CHELU Inc, which was meant to study the health and use of the Chamorro language in the San Diego area. These sorts of studies are always both depressing and irritating. First, since the data is based on self-reporting the almost always over-estimate the levels at which people are using the language and the levels at which people are fluent in it. Second, despite these statistical inflations the numbers are still always shocking and na'ma'a'nao.
The Pacific Daily News article which covered the release of the Pa'a Taotao Tano' study sported the title "Chamorro is 'sort of' disappearing." Ha estotba yu' este na titilu. This is one of the frustrations of the effort to revitalize the language, or to bring it back. For all intents and purposes, Chamorro is not sort of disappearing, it is disappearing. The levels at which children, the demographic upon which the future of the language are obtaining the language and using it are so poor, you might as well already call the language dead.
Gi entre i manamko' bula sina mamfino' Chamoru, lao para i otro na gurupun idat, i mas hoben i gurupu, i mas hassan i sina fumino' Chamoru. Para kada na matai na amko' (ni' sina fumino' Chamoru), ti tinatahgue ni' un hoben (ni' sina fumino' Chamoru). Annok na manmemenggua.
If 1 in 5 people on Guam can speak Chamorro, but the overwhelming majority of those who can speak are in the oldest age group, then the language is either dead or near death.