fino' chamoru / politiku

Ufisiåt na Lenguahi

Chamorro is lawfully an official language of the island of Guam. When this was passed in the 1970s it represented a very radical move. In that historical moment, Chamorro was declining in so many ways, privately and publicly, and the official recognition of Chamorro by the Guam Legislature and the Government of Guam supported other efforts in the community and schools to teach Chamorro and break the trends that were leading to its silencing. The Chamorro language had been maligned for several decades by the United States and its colonial emissaries in Guam, being reduced in their rhetoric to a “mental defect” and a mongrel tongue. This elevation of the language, the formalization of it as something official was a crucial step in undoing the negative colonial impacts. But unfortunately this act wasn’t as formative or as foundational as we might have hoped. In that historical context it was radical and powerful, but little has been done since, at the governmental level to build upon it. To take the logical steps to ensure that Chamorro, as an official language of Guam receives the respect and support it should. The enshrining of Chamorro in this way, means that Guam is formally a bilingual community, but with very few exceptions, how does this manifest? For Government of Guam agencies, certain signs are bilingual (the airport being a notable example). Some government materials are printed in bilingual forms, ironically enough this usually happens when a project is federally funded and not locally resourced. Are activities conducted or translated into Chamorro to keep in line with the bilingual nature of Guam? This has been part of the weakness of Chamorro identity and pride, even as it has visibly grown in recent decades. Is that the language is regularly excluded from this discussion, even if it should be central to it. Even if fragments of Chamorro, such as salutations have become more commonly used  (Hafa Adai and Si Yu’us Ma’ase most importantly), Chamorros in both public and private spaces have been lax in formalizing the use of their language beyond this. Imagine how different things would be, if Guam had followed the example of other bilingual communities in the world? Imagine what it would be like if it was normal to use Chamorro everywhere English is used? Estague un guinife-hu!

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