Monday, April 07, 2014

Klas Chamoru ta'lo

I have been off island for two weeks and so I haven't been teaching my weekly Chamorro lessons, but I'm grateful that others have stepped in to take over and keep people reviewing the language even in my absence.

It is interesting how you do not realize things, or gain the ability to reflect on things, unless you encounter something that forces a contrast or a reflective moment. I have offered these language classes for years now, literally four years and although I've always enjoyed them, I never really realized the impact they could have. For me it was just teaching people who wanted to learn Chamorro, Chamorro. It was just another battlefield in the struggle against language death.

But last month my Chamorro classes at Java Junction got a lot more attention than I ever imagined, with people from all over the United States emailing me asking to join them. Several media outlets covered my classes, which felt strange to me, because they are such simple, small things. To me who wants to bring the Chamorro language everywhere and give it life in anyway possible there are plenty of other things I have going on that to me are more interesting and exciting, why was this what people were so interested in?

But the more I stepped out of myself the more I realized there was a lot of simple, but powerful potential to having these community classes. I got to experience some of this potential last week while visiting Hawai'i. My former UOG student and current Masters student in Pacific Island Studies at UH Manoa, Ken Kuper has been organizing for the past year and a half similar coffee shop meetings in Honolulu. He was the one who actually helped start my original Java Junction classes while he was attending the University of Guam. He is one of the handful of people who I have taught Chamorro to over the years who has actually gone on to pursue fluency. I got to attend his own language classes that he holds every Saturday morning in a restaurant in the Ward Shopping Center. He calls them "I Finakmata i Hila' Siha" or the awakening of our tongues.

It was a surreal experience being in a space, where the possibilities of things become more clear. It is easy to have classes in coffee shops and restaurants to teach the language. It is cheap and simple, if there is enough will to learn and someone who is willing to teach. The potential of my classes has little to do with anything I've done. It has everything to do with the way that I have helped to advocate a different technique for teaching and promoting the language. Something that more people should organically take advantage of.

Just as a reminder, my Chamorro classes are every Friday, at Java Junction in Hagatna at 12 pm for Beginner's Classes, 1:30 for intermediate.

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