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Guam university president encourages speaking in Chamorro

HAGATNA, Guam (AP) — The president of the University of Guam says Chamorros must learn to speak their language now if they want it to survive.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization included Chamorro on its list of languages in danger of extinction.

University president Robert Underwood said it’s possible for Chamorros to pick up the language, no matter how old they are, but it will take effort.

“It’s that simple,” Underwood said last week. He was a keynote speaker at the university-hosted Festival of Pacific Arts Indigenous Language Conference. Knowing just a few words in the language isn’t going to get the community very far, he said.

“You can’t Hafa Adai yourself to a Chamorro speaking community,” Underwood said.

Underwood said he heard Chamorro spoken on the streets when he was growing up, but that’s no longer true. He has advocated for the traditional language for years and says much of the loss can be attributed to Chamorros thinking that English would help them succeed in life.

He said he learned quite a bit of Chamorro while living in the states because his mother would pretend to not speak English when salespeople came to their home. It was a game he and his mom played, said Underwood, and it helped him learn the language.

 

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