Tuesday, July 23, 2013

What do you call someone from Guam? What do they speak?


This is a question I was often asked when telling people I was moving to Guam. Here is the answer:

All people living on Guam are called “Guamanian.” Guam is a U.S. Territory and people speak English; however, the Chamorro (the indigenous peoples of the Mariana Islands) speak Chamorro. So, all people from Guam are Guamanian, but not all Guamanians are Chamorro.

One common phrase you will often hear is “Håfa adai” (sounds like “half a day”) which translates to “hello” or “good day.” You will often hear this when entering stores or restaurants.  Chamorro is spoken in homes and though you will probably get by just fine on Guam without speaking a word of Chamorro, if you have the opportunity to converse in  the language and put forth an effort I’m sure it will be appreciated and well received.

The Chamorro language is currently threatened. The 2000 U.S. Census showed that fewer than 20% of Chamorro living on Guam speak their native language fluently, and most of those are 55 or older. Though currently there is action for the language to be revitalized, it seems it may not be enough. I was watching the news one day and a local man stated that the children in school are being taught their numbers and colors in Chamorro, but more needs to be done for this language to be saved.

You may be thinking “So what? It is a dying language. The world is shrinking. Soon we will all be speaking the same language anyway. What difference does it make? And isn’t it a U.S. Territory?” Well yes, that may be true, but it IS important. The language, culture and history of any place, be it a state, a village or even a street, should be remembered. To know where you come from is to know who you are.

Below are the Chamorro and correct pronunciations some of the villages on Guam. I also included some every day use of Chamorro obtained from the Department of Chamorro Affairs. You may  notice some Spanish influence in some of the words because Guam was colonized by Spain for over 300 years. If you are interested, you can get a better idea of how to pronounce these words here.

Guåhån -- Guam


Agat                                    ayg-it

Chalan-Pago-Ordot            chah-lahn pah-goh or-dot

Dededo                               deh deh dough

Hagåtña                               ha-gat-nya

Mangilao                             mahng-ee-lau

Mongmong-Toto-Maite       muhng-muhng toe-two-my-tee

Piti                                      pee-tee

Yigo                                    gee-go

Yona                                   joan-ya


Greetings and Salutations

Håfa Adai                       Hello/ Good day

Buenas                               Hi/ Hello

Buenas Dihas                Good Morning

Buenas Tåtdes                Good Afternoon

Buenas Noches               Good Evening

Siñot                               Response or greeting to a male

Siñora                             Response or greeting to a female

Håfa tatamanu hao?         How are you?

Kao todu maolek?          Is everything fine? Are you all right?

Kao maolek hao?            Are you fine?


Help/ Directions

Kao siña hu ayuda hao?                   May I help you?

Kao guaha un nisisita?                     Do you need anything?

Kao un nisisita ayudu?                     Do you need help?

Amånu nai gaige i ‘Hotel Nikko?’   Where is Nikko hotel?

Amånu nai gaige i K-Mart?              Where is K-Mart?

Amånu nai gaige i kemmon?             Where is the restroom?

Pot fabot, ayuda yu’!                         Please help me!

Despensa yu’.                                   Excuse me.

Ki ora på’go?                                   What time is it now?

Hu nisisita mediku.                            I need a doctor.


Personal Information

Håyi na’ån-mu?                          What is your name?

Taotao månu håo?                      Where are you from?

Amånu nai sumåsaga hao?          Where do you live?

Sumåsaga yu’ giya Barrigada.     I live in Barrigada

Kao Chaorro hao?                      Are you Chamorro?


Hunggan                                                  Yes

Åhe’                                                        No

Maolek yu’.                                             I am fine

Ya hågu?                                                 And you?

Todu maolek .                                         Everything is good

Todu båba.                                              Everything is bad

Maolek/ maolek ha’/esta maolek            Good/ okay

Si Yu’os Ma’åse’                                    Thank you

Buen probechu                                         You’re welcome

Adios                                                        Good-bye

Pues adios astaki/ Adios esta despues      Goodbye until later

Asta i biråda                                             See you around

Pot fabot                                                    Please

Nangga un råtu                                          Wait a minute

Saluda, bien binidu                                   Welcome (arrival)

Inorabuena, filisadåd                                 Congratulations


Ordinary Words

På’go                                 Today

Agupa’                               Tomorrow

Nigap                                 Yesterday

Agupa’ña                           Day after tomorrow

Nigapña                             Day before yesterday

Ora                                    Time

Nå’i yu’                             Give me

Fa’nu’i yu’                         Show me

Fa’nå’gue yu’                     Teach me

Guaiya, guinaiya                 Love

Bunitu, bunita, asentådu      Beautiful/Nice

Maipe’                                Hot

Manengheng                        Cold

Chata’an                              Rainy



Until next time, Asta i biråda !

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