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Free weekly classes in beginning Chamorro

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by Krystal Paco

Guam - If you've always been interested in learning the island's native tongue but may have been too busy or too intimidated to sign up for a Chamorro class, now's your chance.

"It's not a real class. It's basically if you're committed, if you've always wanted to learn Chamorro, if you don't like sitting in a classroom then you can come hang out at a coffee shop and its very relaxed," explained UOG's Dr. Michael Bevacqua.

And every Friday at noon, more than a dozen flock to Java Junction in Hagatna to take his beginner's class. Bevacqua, who serves as the program coordinator for the newly established Chamorro Studies Program at the University of Guam, invites everyone and anyone to take advantage of the opportunity to learn more about the island's language and culture in the most casual of settings.

"I find it's really helpful in getting students comfortable with the language. Because one of the big hang-ups that people have is that if you didn't grow up speaking Chamorro but you heard your grandparents or your elders speak it, you don't feel like its really your language. So I find that this relaxed atmosphere can help students feel that this is my language," he said.

But what can you expect and why's it so important to learn the language today?

"You get grammar, you can ask any questions you want and I'll do my best to answer but its really for people in the community who have not been able to go and take a class at the university but really want to get into it," he said.  "The Chamorro language is endangered. But if more people started to learn the language and speak the language then it could survive for another 4,000 years."

For some, the class is close enough to their workplace to take on their Friday lunch break. For others like Andrew Gumataotao, the class reinforces what he's learning in the classroom. Gumataotao, who is a music and Chamorro studies major at UOG, is always looking for a crowd he practice with.

"The biggest challenge is incorporating it like constantly full immersion all the time. I try to hang out with some of the secretaries at UOG trying to be in that atmosphere," he said.

And working towards fluency has been a great bonding opportunity for Gumataotao and his father.

"It's always fun especially learning the language through song with my dad. He gives me insights on certain things back in their time and how would you court someone. He even tells me his own stories about his life," he said.  "Try to make it a part of your life as much as you can. Me, I like music. I do it. Even if there's a song I'm trying to translate it's a very contemporary song it's a Bruno Mars song. I'm trying to work and see if we can incorporate it into my band's repertoire."

For more information on the free beginner's Chamorro class held weekly, like the Chamorro Studies Facebook.

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