Monday, December 19, 2016

Ti Matai Ha' Trabiha i Lengguahi-ta

Un apå'ka na taotao, i na'ån-ña si Paul Zerzan, sigi ha' umalok gui' gi gasetan Guåhan na esta måtai pat esta taisetbe i Fino' Chamorro. Esta ha na'bububu meggai na taotao guini giya Guåhan yan gi sanlagu lokkue'. Estague diferentes na kåtta ginen i PDN ni' kumokontra i taihinasso na tinige'-ña.


Our Language Isn't Dead Yet
by Michael Lujan Bevacqua
Pacific Daily News

My column this week is written in response to Paul Zerzan’s op-ed on Oct. 29 dealing with the death of the Chamorro language.

Men with the same complexion and attitudes as Zerzan have long felt it their right to determine the life or death of things related to indigenous people in the Pacific. For Chamorros, these sorts of pronouncements are common. We have been struggling against them for centuries and only recently realized that just because a man with a flag comes to claim us, it doesn’t mean he discovered us. Just because a man with a degree that says he is an expert, says we have no culture, doesn’t mean that we have nothing to call our own. Zerzan joins a host of others who sometimes say the language is useless, sometimes say its primitive, other times say its bastardized and not a real language. All of it is tied to the longstanding feud over what makes Guam, Guam. Is Guam on the map because Magellan found it? Is Guam part of history because Henry Glass took it? Is Guam a place that exists to be discovered by outsiders or does it have its own identity through its indigenous people?
Zerzan’s claims are polemical in the worst sort of way, as in they have no evidence to support them other than the flawed ruminations of the writer. By every metric that matters the Chamorro language is not dead. There are still tens of thousands of speakers of Chamorro in the world today. The Chamorro language is clearly endangered, but several hundred young people still learn the language each year and become fluent. I have raised some of them and continue to speak to them in Chamorro every day.

Zerzan’s reference to Latin and Chamorro as being useless shows the limitations of his thinking. In truth, Latin is far from useless, and in understanding why it might be valuable, you can see how languages are so much more than about convenient communication. As social organisms, they are far more complicated and multilayered. Learning Latin can help you navigate a world where Latin may no longer be fluently spoken, but is nonetheless integrated into the web of meanings in the sciences, in the legal world and life in general. Languages are social and do not just connect people to each other, but also connect them to the world around them, give form to their abstract ideas and provide the means through which we can express what are our values and culture. The Chamorro language has changed as this place and its people have changed. It is intimately tied to so many aspects of history, anthropology and geography here. Languages are not simply about communication, and never have been. They are the means through which we access and express all that is life. This is why people, large and small, seek to protect and promote their languages, because it represents one of their most concrete connections to the world.

In his characterization of languages, their movements and their deaths, we can get a sense of the type of worldview that Zerzan is invoking, and it isn’t particularly accurate or helpful. The myth of the Tower of Babel lurks behind his words, the idea that at one point we all spoke the same convenient language but because of some horrific original sin, the world has become a basket of conflicting tongues. In his mind globalization is taking us back towards efficient monolingualism, where every small language is quietly steamrolled to make way for the big languages. But the multiplicity of languages does not exist because of some angry deity. It exists because of the diversity of human experience. Languages bear the marks of human progress and innovation. They are scarred and track history in the same ways the rings within an ancient tree do.

This is the most fundamental lesson from languages, the lesson that is beyond the words themselves. It is that the purpose of life is not to dominate, but rather to understand. Zerzan should not seek to occupy the same position as those missionaries, Naval governors or members of Congress who sought to dominate the Chamorros and their language or culture. He should instead, if he cares anything about this place, seek to protect this language that is closely connected to it, and support the Chamorro people in this effort.

Michael Lujan Bevacqua is an author, artist, activist and assistant professor of Chamorro studies at the University of Guam.


Letter About Chamorro is Uninformed
by Peter J. Santos
Letter to the Editor
Pacific Daily News

On Oct. 29, 2016, Mr. Paul Zerzan of Barrigada wrote a rather uninformed letter to Guam PDN’s Voice of the People discussing the Chamorro language. He posited that the Chamorro language has died and its time has passed. He analogized the language to a 105-year-old human being whose health should not be artificially prolonged at the expense of babies and children. First, he is making an unintelligent comparison. Languages, unlike humans, live for a long time, and can theoretically live indefinitely. He asserts that to promote and preserve the Chamorro language would be a “wrong” committed on the young.

This is a blatantly racist and anglo-centric mindset. Cultural genocide. The real “wrong” is what he is proposing. Everyone knows the value in preserving and practicing our culture so I will not recite it here.

He purports to know what is best for Guam and the Chamorro people. How has this worked out? I mean outsiders telling us what to do? All in the name of civilization and progress, improving our lot in life.

Today in the 21st century, we on Guam have health issues, crime like never before, homelessness, and degradation of morals and values. Mr. Zerzan wrote another letter in a different, new publication citing a fiction book of all things as proof that Chamorro people are immoral and lack values.

With regard to his remarks, he made the ubiquitous disclaimer in his letters: “with all due respect…”
Well Mr. Zerzan, here’s what I say to you and all like ilk. ... You preach ignorance, bigotry and disrespect of the highest order.

Peter Santos is a resident of Santa Rita.


Chamorro Language is Alive
by Catherine Flores McCollum
Letter to the Editor
Pacific Daily News

I’d like to respond to Paul Zerzan on his letter to the editor, dated Oct. 29, 2016. Why does it drive you crazy that our island would like to preserve our language?  More and more of our young adults have already taken the initiative to speak our language at home, to each other and to their children.  I have seen and heard the beauty of our language exchanged and when their children are in my presence, I become a part of the conversation and that is mesmerizing!

When I was a child in school, I was punished abusively for speaking my native language — Chamorro.  We were forbidden!  My parents were afraid of the constant complaints from our teachers, so they spoke to us in your language, forcing English on us!  Finally years later, with legislative support, our language became “official.” But as an adult, my response in our “official” tongue was somehow lost due to the lack of speaking it and your English language muddles my tongue.

Thank you, to friends and family who now freely converse with me without the worries of being “offensive” or “punished.”

I encourage all who come to Guam and choose Guam as your residence, not to lose your native tongues and to speak to your children as you have been freely speaking as a child in your native homeland.  Imagine having more than one language to know!

I was taught Spanish, Japanese and English in school, but Chamorro was never a part of the language curriculum during my time.

I beg to differ, Zerzan, the Chamorro language from my great grandparents, grandparents, parents is very much alive! How can we teach and learn a “dead” language?
Saina Ma’asi!

Catherine Flores McCollum is a resident of Tamuning.


Where is the Chamorro Language in Our Lives?
by Kenneth Gofigan Kuper
Letter to the Editor
Pacific Daily News

The Chamorro community on social media was rightfully outraged by Paul Zerzan’s op-ed “Chamorro language has died.” In his erroneous op-ed, he writes, “Trying to preserve a dead language is simply a lost cause and no good can come of it.” When thinking of how to respond to this colonial nonsense, I felt that it was more important for us to instead ask, “Where is the Chamorro language in our lives?”

I started learning the language when I was 20 years old, and since then it has reconnected me to who I am as a Chamorro. When my partner was mapotge, I wanted my child to receive the gift of Fino’ Chamoru. Now, my 2-year-old, Inina Concepcion, sings songs by Bokonggo, yells “Munga Tåta” when she’s angry, and loudly exclaims when she’s bored “Tåta, nihi ta hånao.” For Chamorros, we know the value of our language goes beyond “making money.” As Chamorro scholar Rosa Palomo once said, “Language is the umbilical cord to culture.”

Whenever Inina speaks Fino’ Chamoru, she gets nourished by this umbilical cord. She is a living example that the language lives. However, we still have to worry. The 2010 census indicated that only 16 percent of Guam’s population speaks the language, most of whom, like my grandmothers, are manåmko’.Therefore, which of these futures do we want to see? Fino’ Chamoru, the language used only in antiquated signs or Fino’ Chamoru, the language rolling off the tongues of our children? The next 10 years will determine which future we get, and this all depends on the actions we take today.
So, let us ask ourselves where the language is in our lives? Månu na gaige i fino’-ta gi lina’lå’-ta? Do we use it in daily conversation or do we simply use it in cuss words/slang? As Chamorro scholar Robert Underwood said, “You cannot ‘Håfa Adai’ your way to a Chamorro speaking community.”

So, when Zerzan writes that our language is dead, let us rightfully be angry. However, what will we do with that anger? For those who know Fino’ Chamoru, we can continue to speak it and pass it down. For those who don’t know it YET, we can find family members to learn from or use We can attend some classes at University of Guam, Guam Community College, Hurao Academy, or the free lessons offered by Michael Lujan Bevacqua. Fino’ Chamoru is alive, and there is definitely hope.

I hope that the Chamorro language continues to be an everyday part of Inina’s life. I hope that she uses Fino’ Chamoru when she gossips with her friends, when she experiences love, when she comforts me on my death bed, and when she has children of her own. When the language is within us and in our everyday emotions, the language lives.

So, go home, and find a quiet place. Breathe in, take five minutes, and ask yourself, “Månu na gaige i fino’ Chamoru gi lina’lå’-hu?” or “Where is the Chamorro language in my life?”

Kenneth Gofigan Kuper, a resident of Tamuning, is a Ph.D. student in political science at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and a Fino' Chamoru language revitalization activist.


 The Chamorro Language Should Be Preserved
by Mark Goniwiecha
Letter to the Editor
Pacific Daily News

I respond to the opinion of Paul Zerzan that the Chamorro language has already died (Oct. 26, 2016 opinion).

To paraphrase the words of Mark Twain, reports of the death of the Chamorro language are grossly exaggerated and greatly premature.

The reason that “everyone on Guam who can speak Chamorro can also speak English” is because of more than one hundred years of occupation, hegemony, colonization and militarization by insensitive American administrators.

Before the Americans, Chamorro people were directed to speak Spanish for hundreds of years, then Japanese.

Left to their own devices, Chamorro people in southern Guam, and in the Northern Mariana Islands, still prefer to speak Chamorro!

Required courses in the Guam Department of Education and Chamorro language immersion programs, have been chosen by Chamorro people to help preserve, retain, employ and utilize their own language.

About 20 Micronesian languages and about 20 Alaska Native languages are threatened by ubiquitous use of English. The English language is not threatened. Some insecure Americans are threatened by hearing other Americans speak another language.

I am somewhat embarrassed that, after a career of teaching on Guam, I have not become conversant in Chamorro language pleasantries.

However, to say that it is wrong to try to preserve the Chamorro language is disrespectful.

Mark Goniwiecha is a resident of Mangilao.

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