Friday, August 12, 2016

Fino' Chamorro News

Some updates on ongoing Chamorro language related efforts. Most promising is the fact that there are two groups that are actively pushing now for Chamorro language (one full Chamorro, the other bilingual English/Chamorro) immersion schools. I have my own ongoing efforts, but as usual life, teaching and other obligations get in the way. Over the summer, I can at least thankfully report that my good friend in Chamorro language revitalization Ken Kuper (who is currently getting his Ph.D. in Hawai'i) organized a number of important events and got some media projects started. Look forward to those coming out soon over social media and in local events.


Chamorro immersion program ensures Guam's language isn't lost
by Isa Baza

With fewer and fewer children speaking the Chamorro language every year, the Guam Department of Education is stepping up to create a Chamorro immersion program that may help keep our island's native tongue fresh in the minds of Guam youth.

"Right now based on a lot of the surveys we've done throughout the years, we don't have any speakers, we don't produce speakers, so our intention with this master plan is to produce speakers for our next generation, so when they're done with their schooling, they're able to survive using the Chamorro language," explained Division of Chamorro Studies acting administrator Rufina Mendiola. She said her department has developed a draft Chamorro immersion master plan, which aims to teach students exclusively in Chamorro.

"We need to have the science teacher speaking only in Chamorro, the math, the basic content that every child needs to learn in the classroom but it's going to be all immersed in the Chamorro language," she added.

The draft plan is a result of a survey of both parents and students conducted last school year. Mendiola said, "And based on the results, a lot of the questions had to do with - if we had an immersion master plan in place for the department of education, are you going to have your child attending - there are a lot of parents that are interested."

She said the program would address weaknesses with the current program, including a lack of sufficient instructional time.  "We're very limited right now, for example in elementary and teaching of the Chamorro mandate, we have twenty minutes a day for the K-2 and 30 minutes for 3-5, it's very limited," she added.

She hopes to produce a finalized plan later this year, and possibly begin a pilot program at the elementary level in School Year 2017-2018. However community support is essential. For those interested in learning more about this plan you can attend a community presentation scheduled for Wednesday at 6pm at the Talofofo Senior Center.
Taiguini Books to Host Reading of Latest Chamorro Children's Books
UOG Press Release
Taiguini Books’ two latest children’s books – Guaiyayon na Trongkon Mansanita and Si Pedro yan i Hilét Oru na Ko’ko’ – capture the joys of childhood on Guam. Both stories convey the importance of family and the many adventures children on Guam can experience while playing outside.  As the perfect end to summer, Taiguini Books is hosting a reading of both books at the University of Guam’s RFK Library on Saturday, August 20, 2016 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.  The event will feature a special presentation of the books by their authors and illustrators, followed by art activities and games for the whole family to enjoy.

Guaiyayon na Trongkon Mansanita (The Loveable Mansanita Tree), written by Dolores Camacho and illustrated by Andrea Grajek, highlights the special bond shared between three young sisters, who find sanctuary and adventure under the canopy of their loveable mansanita tree. Set in 1950s Guam, this book captures a time when children discovered joy in nature and in each other.

Si Pedro yan i Hilét Oru na Ko’ko’ (Pedro and the Golden Ko’Ko’), written and illustrated by Lance Osborn, is an exciting tale of a young boy named Pedro from Malesso’, who is on a quest to capture the clever Golden Ko’ko’. The Golden Ko’ko’ only comes around every 100 years, and Pedro, determined to catch him, spends his days setting up traps along the Ko’ko’s path in southern Guam.

Both books will be available for sale at the event.

For more information, please contact UOG Press Managing Editor Victoria-Lola Leon Guerrero at (671) 735-2154 or 

About Taiguini Books
Taiguini Books, a division of University of Guam Press, publishes cultural literature for children and adults.
Underwood: Chamorro language survival requires speaking
by Jerick Sablan
Pacific Daily News

University of Guam President Robert Underwood last week gave a powerful message to Chamorros on how to create a community of speakers.

Underwood was a keynote speaker for the Festival of Pacific Arts Indigenous Language Conference held at the university.

“You can’t Hafa Adai yourself to a Chamorro speaking community,” he said.

Knowing just a few words in Chamorro, Underwood said, isn’t going to create a community that speaks Chamorro, nor is “imagining” it will happen 50 years later — referencing the governor’s Imagine Guam initiative, a plan developed by community members that outlines where the island should be in half a century.

Chamorros must learn and speak the language now for the language to strive, Underwood said.
“It’s that simple,” he said.

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO, has included Chamorro on its list of languages in danger of extinction.

Underwood said it’s “absolutely” possible for Chamorros to pick up the language, even if they are older. It just takes effort to do it, he said.

“I wish I had happier news,” Underwood said. “I’m afraid we don’t.”

The university president said when he was growing up, he would hear Chamorro spoken on the streets, and everywhere it was common.

Today it isn’t so, Underwood said.

“It’s sad what’s happening,” he said.

Underwood has been an advocate for the Chamorro language for many years. He said he was surprised when he came back to Guam after living in the states for some years and discovered he knew the language better than some of his peers.

He was able to use Chamorro despite being out in the states because his mother would pretend to not speak English when salespeople came to their home. He said it was a game he and his mom played and it helped him learn a lot of Chamorro.

Much of the loss can be attributed to Chamorros thinking that English would help them succeed in life, he said.

It’s important to understand Chamorro language in the context of historical development, Underwood said.

For example, the Chamorro word for avocado, alageta, comes from the old American term alligator pears.

“It’s a wonderful story,” he said.

He said the conference was important, not so much to rediscover who islanders are, but to know that everyone has a certain set of historical experiences.

Paul Paton, from First Languages Australia, who also attended Friday’s conference, said his organization is helping keep indigenous languages alive in the country.

Australia is home to many endangered languages and the group’s hope is to help them revive and thrive, he said. They have more than 20 language centers and have great support from the government, he said.  


Mobile Apps Aim To Help People Learn Chamorro Language
Guam groups release ‘Speak Chamorro,’ ‘Learn Chamorro’ apps

By Jerick Sablan
HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, March 19, 2015) – New technology is expanding the ways people can learn Chamorro.
Two groups recently created mobile apps to help people learn the Chamorro language. The Young Men's League of Guam released the "Speak Chamorro" app last week, and Troy Aguon, publisher of Learn Chamorro, a digital publication that helps people learn the language, said the "Learn Chamorro" app will be released soon.
'Speak Chamorro'
The "Speak Chamorro" app from the Young Men's League of Guam is available on Google Play and is expected to be available in Apple's App Store as soon as it gets approved, Young Men's League of Guam Public Affairs Officer Wil Castro said. The app is free to download.
The app features a Chamorro word of the day with the definition and the use of the Chamorro word in a sentence with the English translation.
The Guam Department of Education Chamorro Studies Division is a development partner for the app, Castro said.
Ron Laguana, administrator of the division and member of the league's board of directors, assists the league by providing the content used in the app, a release from the league states.
Castro said the app was prioritized to celebrate Mes Chamorro, or Chamorro month, and to celebrate the league's centennial anniversary coming in 2017.
So far the response to the app has been good, he added, and the league also has received ideas to improve it.
The group already is looking into improving the app by adding more features, such as pronunciation, conversation pieces and others, Castro said.
The technical developer for the app is local company Niche Creative, he said.
'Learn Chamorro'
For Aguon, the "Learn Chamorro" app started six years ago when he was looking for tools to help teach his kids how to speak Chamorro. There weren't many tools available then so he created the Learn Chamorro DVD and then went on to create other tools such as his website and, now, the app.
The app's demo was completed Dec. 24, he said.
The "Learn Chamorro" app is kid-focused with a game that uses images and words to help children learn Chamorro.
Aguon said the app is made for kids because they are the ones who will keep the Chamorro language alive.
The app also has audio, so a user can click on a word and hear its pronunciation, Aguon said.
It also shows a user's game score and has a share feature so users can post on social media.
Aguon said he plans to have an islandwide competition for kids using the app, in which they can win prizes. Weekly competitions with prizes also are planned.
The app's features include a dictionary, important phrases and a podcast on Guam history. The dictionary will include Chamorro-to-English and English-to-Chamorro translation.
The app also will have installments and updates that will increase the number of features available, Aguon said.
Learn Chamorro is working with local company Onlink to develop the app, he added.
"All the sponsors of this app have stepped up to promote, preserve and perpetuate the beautiful Chamorro language and culture," he said. "Not just during Mes Chamorro but all day, every day, all year long."
The "Learn Chamorro" app will be free to download, he said, because of support from generous sponsors.
Pacific Daily News
Copyright © 2015 Guam Pacific Daily News. All Rights Reserved
CNMI students win big in Chamorro language competition
Posted on Mar 12 2015
The Saipan Tribune
CNMI students were some of the top finishers in this week’s Chamorro language competition at the University of Guam from March 9 to 10.

For the middle school sinangan/oratorical category, Chacha Oceanview student Breanna Camacho placed first. In second was a student from Guam. In third was Hopwood Junior High School’s Terry Ann Terry.

The category’s theme was “I Fino- Chamoru.” It required students to write, memorize, and speak on this theme.

For the poetry category, students recited a Chamoru language poem provided by the “Inachaigen Fino’ Chamoru” organizing committee.

In first place was Chacha Oceanview student Genzol Gonzales; a Guam student placed second; Hopwood Junior High School student Joshalyn Flores placed third.

For the Tinaitai Koru/Choral Reading, the Tinian Elementary school team placed third.

For the Lalai/Chant category, Hopwood and Chacha Oceanview, placed second and third, respectively.

For the profisiente (proficiency) category, students competed in reading comprehension, impromptu reading, and oral impromptu task completion rounds. Under this competition, Marianas High School students Balbina Concepcion and Kenaleen Litulomar placed second and third, respectively.

For the reading comprehension round, students read a selection and wrote answers to questions. For impromptu, they read aloud a brief passage or poem given to them 15 minutes before.

For the final impromptu round, a student is given a practical task using Chamoru language and behavior.

For the high school poetry recitation category, Marianas High School student Winfa Rabago placed second.

For the Kakanta na Palao’an/Female singer category, MHS student Riannalyn Manabat placed second.

For the male singing category, MHS student Jose Carreon placed first.

For the singing category, students had to wear their own Chamorro costume. Songs could be original or from another artist, but had to be in Chamorro, not bilingual and not translated from an English song.

For the inentepeten kotturan egge’/dramatic cultural interpretation, MHS placed first. Under this category, students acted out an original skit based on this year’s theme of “The Story of Latte.”

For the kanta yan baila/song with dance category, MHS placed first. Under this category, a group of students sang and danced to a song in the Chamorro language.

For the kantan chamorita/chamorita style of singing category, MHS placed first, beating John F. Kennedy High School from Guam. Under this category, a couple or group of students sang a back and forth between each other. It was a style of singing where a statement is made to be challenged, agreed upon, or rebuttal motivating a response. 


FESTPAC Day 11: Craving My Culture
by Johanna Salinas
June 3, 2016
The Guam Daily Post

Sometimes I feel outside my culture, because I do not speak Chamorro. Kenneth Gofigan Kuper proved to me that one does not need to grow up speaking Chamorro to be proficient in the language.
 On Wednesday, June 1, Kuper presented Chamorro prose and poetry to the publications committee at the Nieves M. Flores Memorial Library in Hagatna.

"I actually didn't know Chamorro growing up but because of (Michael Bevacqua) and his work it gave me the stepping stones," said Kuper. "And I became fluent to the point that my grandmother started trusting me more and more to speak the language."

Kuper even offered his own personal help to those interested in learning Chamorro. "I've made all these Chamorro worksheets, so if anybody wants them, contact me. I will really do anything in my power to help others learn the language."

I am proud of Kuper's projects that promote the revitalization of our language. His hard work to learn and teach Chamorro made me feel hopeful that one day I will speak the language and that young people will converse in Chamorro.

Our language is our culture. It isn't our food, our fashion or our political status that define us. Those are a part of culture, but it isn't the heart of it. I believe what sets Chamorro people apart from other ethnicities is our language. And it frustrates me that I cannot speak words of my land, the words of my ancestors.

Later, when I saw Benita Lizama, my roommate at our Agueda Johnston Middle School housing site, I told her about my insecurities about learning the language. She assured me to push myself to learn Chamorro.

"Our children are hungry for the language," said Lizama, who is a Chamorro teacher. "My 21-year-old son told me to start speaking to him in only Chamorro. So when I started to speak to him in only Chamorro he tried so hard to see what I was saying by looking at my body language and my facial expression. And the thing that hit me so hard was when he asked me, 'How come you never spoke to me in Chamorro? Are you ashamed? Are you embarrassed to speak to me in Chamorro?' Now I help my son by helping him listen to Chamorro music and I take him to Chamorro Mass."
To contact Kenneth Kuper for Chamorro worksheets, email

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