Revitalizing CHamoru: Opportunities and challenges in preserving the native tongue

Nihi Guam

“Indigenous languages are disappearing at an alarming rate, each one taking with it a cultural and intellectual heritage,” UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres wrote in an Aug. 9 tweet, underscoring the urgency “to protect languages under threat of extinction.”

Seeking to raise global attention to the peril besetting indigenous languages around the world, the UN General Assembly has declared 2019 the International Year of the Indigenous Language.

Experts predict that half of the roughly 7,000 languages in existence today will lose all fluent speakers by the end of this century. And CHamoru is one of the world’s endangered languages.

Cara Flores

For CHamoru millennials who are beginning to rediscover their culture, coming to terms with the diminishing language can be disempowering. Cara Flores did not let the fragile state of CHamoru discourage her from learning and uplifting the language. Flores is the founder of Nihi, a local nonprofit that seeks to promote CHamoru language and culture with lessons and online videos. “Our classes offer support and space to work past this challenge,” said Flores, who herself is a student of Nihi’s courses.