THERE continues to be noticeable reverberation surrounding GDOE’s Chamorro Language Program and its ineffectiveness as a mandate for preserving the island’s native tongue.The absence of any supporting evidence, particularly in the form of data compiled through a formal Chamorro language assessment tool that substantiates Chamorro proficiency among public school students, has brought forth irrational policy-making based on what seems on the surface as personal beliefs and posturing to cultural correctness.Before attempts at passing additional laws which are economically and strategically flawed, policy-makers and legislators alike must first consider two limiting factors that sway in the face of the Chamorro language dilemma: language dominance and language purpose.
First, if it has not yet become apparent to GDOE’s leadership, English is and has been the dominant language on Guam for the last 40 years.This will not change if the response at preserving the Chamorro language continues to come as irrational and illogical judgments favoring expansion of Chamorro curriculum within GDOE. Any passion of loyalty and obligation to Chamorro heritage should not overshadow a greater sense of strategic responsibility and planning, and the fact that Chamorro speakers will continue to be an endangered minority on Guam. Passion without common sense is as meaningless as “boyoing” one’s head half clean and wrapping around a “saude” in this modern age.
Second, although there is prevailing dominance of the English language on Guam, its strength can be diluted by first ensuring that the Chamorro language evolves to be more purposeful and rewarding in daily life throughout Guam society. Presently for the majority of students in GDOE, the sole purpose for learning Chamorro is wholly for compliance rather than for a need or urgency. More specifically, the Chamorro language fails at having personal relevance outside of its historical significance and curricular mandate for a majority of Guamanians. Therefore, new approaches that incorporate a greater purpose for Chamorro language use must be realized through bold changes in public policy.
In an attempt at developing social purpose in the use of the Chamorro language, educational leaders should first establish a graduation requirement stating, “No student may graduate from a Guam Public High School without first passing a Chamorro Proficiency Exam in listening, speaking, reading, and writing.” Within this scenario, the responsibility for learning Chamorro shifts from the institution of learning to the home, and ultimately society as a whole. Imagine how much more beneficial it would be if this concept were extended to those about to graduate from the University of Guam or the Guam Community College. Another purposeful shift can also occur if a government-wide “Chamorro Speaking Only” policy were implemented, where everyone’s livelihood would suddenly become dependent on comprehending and speaking Chamorro. And, what if GDOE could take the millions it presently spends on teaching Chamorro and instead develop a monthly Chamorro-speaking contest, where $20,000 in prizes could be given out to the most proficient Chamorro speakers? Wouldn’t there be tremendous savings within GDOE and at the same time an establishment of genuine purpose and reward that all Guamanians can participate in?
The English poet, philosopher and critic Samuel Taylor Coleridge once said, “Language is the armory of the human mind, and at once contains the trophies of its past and the weapons of its future conquests.” Mai’la pago ya ta u’sa i tohm’to’ta para ta na fo’na, gof la’la, yan kinalamten i lingua’hita para todu i tao’tao Guahan. Ti i eskuelan publiku ha ni mu’na fo’fona i lina’la I koturan Chamoru. Prisisu na ta na mas metgot i plan’un linguahita, ni sina mas u mu’na sao’nao todu i rasas siha. O’la’ mohon ya sina ta taka este na punto!
Elwin Champaco Quitano,