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‘It restores my soul’: pandemic affords sudden boon to Guam indigenous language learners | World information


Antoinette Charfauros McDaniel, a 58-year-old retired professor in Ohio, is making an attempt to review her mom tongue. CHamoru, Guam’s indigenous language, is dying, with simply 20,000 of the 168,000-strong inhabitants of the island in a position to converse it.

However the pandemic has provided an sudden alternative to revive it.

Since March, when the coronavirus disaster halted in-person actions, McDaniel has immediately been in a position to entry CHamoru lessons and follow periods held on Guam by way of her pc.

“I’m nonetheless grieving my mother and father, and each time I hear the language and be taught a brand new phrase or phrase that [explains] what my mother was saying to my dad, it restores my soul,” stated McDaniel, whose household comes from the Tamuning and Barrigada villages and who had by no means beforehand studied the language.

Michael Bevacqua, curator of Guam Museum and McDaniel’s on-line trainer, says previous to the pandemic individuals had been eager to be taught however lacked the assets. He started educating the language in espresso outlets in 2010. However when lessons moved on-line, extra individuals had been in a position to be part of and at one level he had 250 individuals in his class.

“At one level, I kind of broke my Zoom account as a result of it had a max of 100 individuals, and there have been far more than 100 those that had been making an attempt to affix,” Bevacqua stated. “My college students donated cash so I may improve the Zoom.”

‘Hungry for his or her roots’

Although the CHamoru individuals characterize the most important portion of Guam’s inhabitants, the vast majority of native audio system are aged, whereas Bevacqua says simply three out of 4,000 schools within the US supply CHamoru lessons: the College of Guam, Guam Neighborhood Faculty and the College of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.

Antoinette CHarfauros McDaniel, whose family comes from the Tamuning and Barrigada villages, has started studying her indigenous language.
Antoinette CHarfauros McDaniel, whose household comes from the Tamuning and Barrigada villages, has began learning her indigenous language.

Kutturan Chamoru Basis, an organisation on the west coast of the US, has provided in-person CHamoru classes since 2010.

“In individual, we had been fortunate if we obtained 10 or 15 college students,” stated Heidi Chargualaf-Quenga, govt director of the muse.

Once they began providing digital classes in 2021 because of the pandemic, curiosity boomed.

“We needed to take down our flyer on our digital platforms two weeks previous to class as a result of we had an amazing response of 100-plus college students,” stated Chargualaf-Quenga.

The decline in individuals talking CHamoru dates again to the US naval administration. After Guam turned an American colony within the Spanish American Battle of 1898, the navy banned CHamoru, also called Chamorro, and burned CHamoru-English dictionaries.

By 1940, 75% of Guam’s inhabitants over the age of 10 spoke English, in response to Guampedia, a well-liked on-line portal about historical past and tradition on Guam and the Mariana Islands.

However Bevacqua stated Guam has skilled a CHamoru renaissance lately. “Individuals really feel extra excited, and hungry for his or her roots,” he stated.

In August, Guam’s governor, Lou Leon Guerrero, signed 5 payments that modified the names of southern villages to their CHamoru spellings. Mayors from Guam’s 19 villages additionally appeared earlier than the Guam legislature to specific their help.

The strikes observe plans by the Kumision I Fino’ CHamoru, or CHamoru Language Fee, to revive village names that align with the CHamoru orthography, which dictates how phrases are spelled and pronounced.

Based on Laura M Torres Souder, vice chairperson of the fee, the group proposes a reputation change, however the Guam legislature and governor make the ultimate name.

One other of Guam’s villages, Inarajan, was additionally formally renamed Inalåhan in April.

Jesse LG Alig, mayor of the village Piti and president of the Mayors’ Council of Guam, stated the continued effort to alter village names represents a small however worthwhile effort.

“On the finish of the day, it’s vital to proceed to advertise our CHamoru language in no matter we are able to,” Alig stated. “The village names are a method of doing that as a result of it’s used nearly every single day, and one of many issues we don’t do is converse CHamoru every single day.”



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