Friday, February 14, 2014

Estorian Inachaigen Fino' CHamoru

The Inachaigen Fino' CHamoru or "Chamorro Language Competition" is just a month away. This year I have the honor of helping organize the event, whereas in the past I only got to participate as a judge or as a spectator. I have written quite a bit about the Inachaigen Fino' CHamoru in the past, about what it represents in terms of decolonizing the community and setting the foundation for the reversal of negative language attitudes. What is holding Chamorros back today in terms of revitalizing their language has nothing to do with resources, but everything to do with attitudes. There are still tens of thousands of Chamorro speakers out there. No one is punishing anyone for speaking Chamorro anymore. What continues to kill the language is the attitudes that people have that makes them feel like they shouldn't speak Chamorro to their kids or to others. These same ideologies make them blame others for the decline of the language when in truth, every speaker of the language can only blame themselves for the decline since, not passing the language on to one's children or grandchildren is precisely what is the problem. A space such as the Inachaigen Fino' CHamoru is important because it can help to re-naturalize the use of Chamorro language amongst the youth. This does not mean that the youth are the true targets of this intervention. It is meant to teach them some Chamorro, make them feel pride in it. But in truth the targets are their elders, their parents and grandparents. It is amongst them that the language still lives and is still healthy, but the problem is they aren't transmitting it to those younger them. They are the ones who need to see the possibilities in terms of the youth speaking and using Chamorro. They are the ones who need to see the responsibility that they have to give this 4,000 year old gift to our children.

Below is a short history of how the Inachaigen Fino' CHamoru came into being:


The forerunner of the CHamoru Language Competition was the All-Island Secondary Schools Competition that was held for nine years at the University of Guam’s former College of Arts and Sciences now named the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences. The All-Island Secondary Schools Competition, headed by the college’s Modern Languages Program involved the middle and high public and private schools on Guam. The languages featured the skills of students in CHamoru, French, German, Japanese and Spanish. The All-Island Secondary Schools Competition in its ninth year ended in 2001 under the chairmanship of CHamoru language assistant instructor Peter R. Onedera who also chaired the previous eighth annual competition.

During a two-year hiatus, attempts to revive the all-island competition failed and Onedera decided to pursue the competition with just the CHamoru language. The first competition was launched in 2004 as a part of the annual Charter Day observance of the University of Guam. For that first competition with over four hundred students, five schools competed in the middle school category while five schools competed in the high school category. For the first time, schools from the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas joined in with representation from Tinian Elementary, Marianas High and Rota High. The competition has now regularly included schools from these islands and at the same time has also become an annual event in conjunction with the University of Guam’s Charter Day.
The genres in the All-Island Secondary Competition were proficiency, dramatic presentation, song and dance and poetry recitation. Onedera expanded the genres in the CHamoru Language Competition to include oratorical, chant, choral reading, essay for the middle schools and the high school male and female singing. Unlike the all-island competitions, an annual theme was also incorporated into the CHamoru competitions.

For the fifth competition in 2008, elementary schools were added and they competed in the genres of spelling, storytelling, drawing and choir with two divisions, that of grades kindergarten to second and grades third to fifth. For the first time in the history of the competition, the first Catholic School participated and that was Mt. Carmel School in Agat.

At the 6th competition on March 10, 2009, the island of Tinian sent its first non-denominational school, that of Grace Christian Academy in the middle school division. The school's representatives captured the gold medal in oratorical, an individual event; a silver in the essay and a gold in the choral reading genre which is a group event. In addition, Guam's archdiocesan Catholic school system added another school to its roster of participants, that of Saint Anthony which captured two drawing golds and one silver respectively and a bronze medal in the children's choir.

It is hoped that future competitions will involve the non-denominational schools on Guam and additional ones from the CNMI, the Department of Defense Domestic Dependants Elementary and Secondary Schools and that of mainland CHamoru organizations who continue to instill pride in the culture and the perpetuation of the CHamoru language among its children.

The event now involve university students enrolled during the semester in the CHamoru language classes, judges who are pillars of the CHamoru speaking community in both Guam and the CNMI as well as with grant support from the Guam Visitors Bureau's Cultural Heritage and Community Outreach program and the Guam Council on the Arts and Humanities Agency. Previously, monetary support was also received from notable civic and business entities.

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