I actually have some colleagues at the university who didn’t want to retain languages in the general education curriculum. It is so odd, but quite a few people actually do not understand what a general education is.
There is a great fear, I think, that the Chamorro nation will decolonize. And so, in ways large and small, there are attempts to demean Chamorro culture and practices and the Chamorro language too often bears the brunt.
“Fear of a Chamorro Planet.” It sounds like a B-movie title, doesn’t it? It’s a reference to feminism and Black Power concepts (there’s a Public Enemy album). Colonizers have a terrible fear that their privileges of racism will be stripped away. And so we get articles like this one.
The question “Is enough being done to preserve the Chamorro language?” was asked in an online poll by the Pacific Daily News on Oct. 28, 2016.
This is an unfortunate phrasing in some ways, because the goal should be to perpetuate the language in living form, spoken by families and teachers alike, rather than preserve it like a dead fly in amber.
The question assumes the Chamorro language can and should continue, which is a proper assumption because it avoids racist ideologies about the inferiority of Pacific peoples.
We must set the Chamorro language in its historic Austro-Malaysian context. Chamorro connects its speakers today not only to the ancestors of long ago, but to Asian and Pacific peoples speaking living languages throughout this region today.
It is strange to hear people lard their op-eds with phrases like “with all due respect” and “not to disrespect this language” when they are suggesting a language is dead.
Similarly, we do not say that Latin is dead, for example. Some of my “colleagues” at the university apparently want to remove language requirements from our general education curriculum.
To me and to many other scholars, it is absurd to suggest languages have no general educational value. I have studied German, Hungarian, Spanish, French, Latin, and now Chamorro.
I would never claim to speak those languages fluently (although I did pass a graduate language exam in French at a “high” competency level), but my laziness is not the point. The mere study of another language improves cognitive function.
We live in the age of many languages, with French, Arabic, and Chinese being particularly prominent globally. (Also, if you’ve ever visited Japan, you might change your mind about “the age of English.”)
It is a democratic principle to offer students a fine general education as a basis. If we assume our general population will be only worker bees, cogs in the machine, indeed, why offer them a glimpse into Latin? What value does it have for them? But that is antithetical to the principles of general education at a liberal-arts institution. Maybe if we only expected students to become janitors, or fast-food workers, or truck drivers, they could be shuffled into technical colleges, and leave the arts and the higher sciences to the white elite. Is that what we really think?
Twenty-first century Guam is not so different from the Guam of the twentieth century. Sadly, while many other countries on the face of the globe have decolonized, Guam remains under imperial rule. We must change in order to succeed and survive.
We must let go of these colonialist notions that the Chamorro language and the Chamorro culture have no value in today’s world. Such false and dangerous ideas only serve to perpetuate a slave mentality.
The Chamorro language has roots in linguistic systems beyond the reach of recorded history. And its longevity continues today. I
I think it is wrong to try and preserve the language of racism and colonialism at the expense of our children’s education. In my opinion, trying to preserve a decaying corpse is simply a lost cause and no good can come of it.