Sumary of ‘It restores my soul’: pandemic offers unexpected boon to Guam indigenous language learners:
- CHamoru, Guam’s indigenous language, is dying, with just 20,000 of the 168,000-strong population of the island able to speak it.
- Since March, when the coronavirus crisis halted in-person activities, McDaniel has suddenly been able to access CHamoru classes and practice sessions held on Guam via her computer.
- Michael Bevacqua, curator of Guam Museum and McDaniel’s online teacher, says prior to the pandemic people were keen to learn but lacked the resources.
- He began teaching the language in coffee shops in 2010. But when classes moved online, more people were able to join and at one point he had 250 people in his class.
- “At one point, I sort of broke my Zoom account because it had a max of 100 people, and there were way more than 100 people that were trying to join,” Bevacqua said.
- ”‘Hungry for their roots’Though the CHamoru people represent the largest portion of Guam’s population, the majority of native speakers are elderly, while Bevacqua says just three out of 4,000 colleges in the US offer CHamoru classes: the University of Guam, Guam Community College and the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.
- Antoinette CHarfauros McDaniel, whose family comes from the Tamuning and Barrigada villages, has started studying her indigenous language.
- Kutturan Chamoru Foundation, an organisation on the west coast of the US, has offered in-person CHamoru lessons since 2010.“In person, we were lucky if we got 10 or 15 students,” said Heidi Chargualaf-Quenga, executive director of the foundation.