‘It restores my soul’: pandemic offers unexpected boon to Guam indigenous language learners

by Sep 28, 2021Bocaítos, Coronavirus, Guam0 comments

The Guardian reports on how the pandemic ended up bringing a silver lining for Guam’s native CHamoru language. With “just 20,000 of the 168,000-strong population” in the island territory being able to speak it, the language was considered to be dying, but with new Zoom classes, new learners popped up.

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.

“I’m still grieving my parents, and every time I hear the language and learn a new word or phrase that [explains] what my mom was saying to my dad, it restores my soul,” said McDaniel, whose family comes from the Tamuning and Barrigada villages and who had never previously studied the language.

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.

This is some good news, amidst the turmoil of COVID-19.