A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘chamorro

[ISL] Four links from islands, from dividing Ireland, to the Chamorro and Haida, to the Caribbean

  • Peter Geoghegan writes at Open Democracy about the mess that Brexit has made of Ireland, two decades after the Troubles’ end.
  • Anthrodendum’s Alex Golub notes that a North Korean attack on Guam, among other things, would threaten the Chamorro natives of the island.
  • The Toronto Star carries an excerpt from a book by Mark Dowie looking at how the Haida, of Haida Gwaii, managed to win government recognition of their existence.
  • CBC’s Sameer Chhabra explores how Canadian students at Caribbean medical schools find it very difficult to get jobs back home.

[ISL] “Is the Chamorro language dead?”

John S. DelRosario Jr.’s column in the Saipan Tribune is an interesting artifact from a society about to experience the death of its traditional language.

Saipan is the largest island of the United States’ self-governing Micronesian commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Chamorro is a language of the Austronesian family distantly related to–among the better-known Austronesian languages–Filipino, Bahasa Indonesia, and Malagasy.

The Northern Marianas Island, along with adjacent Guam, has been under colonial rule for centuries–Spanish, Japanese, American. In the most recent century, any number of factors centering around the disruption of traditional societies by globalization has led to a full-fledged shift away from Chamorro towards English. In this article, DelRosario talks about his decision to stop writing a newspaper column in Chamorro.

Like dry leaf bouncing erratically in the open waters, someday it would soak and sink to the bottom of the sea, never to be seen again. Sadly, this is how I see the demise of our native tongue. Up ahead, our children would see the loss of something intrinsically valuable as it recedes with the tide of neglect, so mutilated by the demands of modernity.

[. . .]

Understandably, folks have related how hard it is to read in their lingo. Indeed, it is humiliating! But many of us are victims of an educational system that teaches English as we move from grammar to high school. We developed literacy in English while we devolve into illiteracy in our own native tongue. It’s nobody’s fault. But look at the long-term effects of illiteracy in our own language. It’s our last hope to perpetuating our peoplehood, isn’t it?

I learned my Chamorro in the first and second grades. Learning the written aspect of it never waned in spite of the instructional discontinuation. I have struggled during the initial years of penning my thoughts to ensure some appreciable measure of being conversant on issues, written with clarity. It became a lot easier with constant writing exercises through the years. It felt good, though I still refuse to use the orthography from Guam. It isn’t representative of the Chamorro taught then nor is it anywhere near what the learned folks have shared and conveyed to us before moving on.

The decision to bury my written column in the vernacular is founded in the assessment that hardly anybody reads Chamorro these days. Specifically, I quiz if I’ve done justice in the use of the written Chamorro or did I exact the complete opposite-discouraged more than encouraged its use. It seems an issue often treated with the adage, “After all is said and done, a lot more is said than done.” And unless there’s strong and wide support of encouragement to continue, it ends on the last week of April.

It is this sad assessment plus 40 years of walking up to the loneliest mound on earth that hastened ending this journey this year. I will prepare an obituary for it. It seems a useless journey I liken to the narrowing of the arteries. Eventually, it loses its use and function. But I think I’ve conquered my dream of writing in my vernacular. Thank God it came with the love of writing and tons of inspiration. To write successfully is to write. Proficiency comes with the routine and critical review or reasoning. Nothing else! That I will end my written Chamorro will not change, in any form or fashion, my being Chamorro.

The implications of this for identity in this part of Micronesia, especially given the heavy influences of colonial powers on what’s now identified as “traditional” culture, is examined at length.

Go, read.

Written by Randy McDonald

April 10, 2012 at 4:25 pm