A dying language

Chamorro is an endangered language but PIBBA will not let it go extinct quietly

On Guam, it is typical of young Chamorros, even those in their 40s, not to speak their native language. Since the “No Chamorro” policy of 1917, the Chamorro language has become “inferior” to the promises of speaking English. Because children would be punished for speaking Chamorro at school, Guam parents felt ashamed and dissuaded to share their language with the youth. Back then and even today, speaking English well implies having a good career and a good life.

The “No Chamorro” policy did not make its way to the Northern Marianas in 1917, which was then a Japanese colony. The Chamorro language was able to coexist with Japanese and even after WWII when America gained control over NMI, there were no drastic laws against speaking the native language.

According to Ethnologue.com, as of 2015 about 64,300 people speak Chamorro. Today, America has heavily influenced the Marianas’ education and lifestyle. While the mindset that “Chamorro is less” than English has taken over both colonies, this year's Pacific Island Bilingual Bicultural Association’s conference, which took place June 25-29 at Hopwood Jr. High School, strived to revitalize the native tongue.

“It’s great that PIBBA is in Saipan this year, for others to appreciate our culture — that’s what PIBBA’s about, appreciating all our languages and cultures in Micronesia and across the Pacific," said CNMI Gov. Ralph Torres. “And so, having the rotation here gives us the opportunity to showcase our language and at the same time to view others of the Pacific.”