Friday, September 20, 2013


Nowadays there is a bit of an attempt to keep praying in Chamorro alive, but, as younger Chamorros who are less proficient in the language take leadership in this, they may not be aware of some of the more common mistakes being made when praying in Chamorro.

Here is, I hope, a simple guide to help us watch out for these.

TATAN-MÅME (Our Father)

Mistake : Asi'e i tano', komo gi langet

Correct : Asi gi tano', komo gi langet

Explanation : The English is, "On earth, as it is in heaven."  When the missionaries translated this into Chamorro, their rendering was "as it is on earth, as in heaven."  They used the Spanish word así, which means "like this" or "like that."  The stress is on the second syllable; aSI.

If you say, "Asi'e i tano'" you are saying, "Forgive the world," which is not what the Our Father says.  What makes even less sense is the rest of the sentence, "as it is in heaven."  "Forgive the world, as it is in heaven."  God doesn't forgive anyone in heaven.  That's how they got to heaven; they were forgiven first while on earth.

So, once again, the English is, "Thy will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven."  We're talking about God's will being done on earth as God's will is done in heaven.  No talk about forgiveness here.

"U ma fa'tinas i pinto'-mo, asi gi tano', komo gi langet."

"May your will be done, like on earth, as in heaven," would be a more literal translation of the Chamorro.

Older Chamorros, more accustomed to Spanish, would have understood the word así.  But modern Chamorros, cut off as it were from their Spanish influences, don't recognize the word así and confuse it with asi'e.


Mistake : Si Yu'us u gaige giya hågo

Correct : Si Yu'us gaige giya hågo

Explanation : In the Hail Mary, in English, we say, "The Lord is with you."  It's a declarative statement.  It declares something existing.  The Lord IS with Mary.  Not will be; not we hope will be; but rather IS.

The Chamorro word u is a future marker.  It means "will be" or "hopefully will be."

Siempre u ma cho'gue agupa'.  It will surely be done tomorrow.

Puede u ma cho'gue agupa'.  Hopefully it will be done tomorrow.

When we say, "Si Yu'us u gaige giya hågo," we are saying, "May the Lord be with you," or, "The Lord will be with you." 

This is not only linguistically inaccurate, it is also theologically off.  The whole point Gabriel was making was that Mary was "full of grace,"  connected with God in a way radically different from the rest of Adam's race, who were cut off from God by Adam's sin.

Mistake : U ma tuna hao entre todo i famalao'an

Correct : Ma tuna hao entre todo i famalao'an

Explanation : Same mistake; the improper use of u.  "U ma tuna hao" means "You will be praised/blessed" or "May you be praised/blessed."  But this is erroneous.  Gabriel was making a declarative statement.  Mary IS praised/blessed among all women.

Mistake : Ya u ma tuna i finañagu-mo as Jesus.

Correct : Ya ma tuna i finañagu-mo as Jesus.

Explanation : Same thing.  Jesus will not BE praised/blessed (u ma tuna) but is in fact praised/blessed (ma tuna).

Possible Source of the Confusion

In the Glory Be, we say "U ma tuna i Tata, yan i Lahi-ña, yan i Espiritu Santo."

There we do use the u, because in this particular prayer we are wishing glory to God.  Of course God is already glorified, whether we glorify Him or not.  God doesn't need anyone to glorify Him; He is glorious in Himself whether anybody knows it or not.

But in our worship and adoration of Him, we desire to give Him our glory.  That's where the u comes in.  U expresses something that will happen in the future, or which we wish will happen in the future, even if the future means in the next few seconds.


In this short prayer (ejaculation) which is unique among Spanish-speaking and Spanish-influenced places, we say :

Abe Maria Purisima, sin pekådo konsebida.  (Hail Mary most pure, conceived without sin.)

Mistake : Sen pekådo konsebida.

Correct : Sin pekådo konsebida.

Explanation : This prayer is actually in Spanish, pronounced the Chamorro way.  The original Spanish is "sin pecado concebida."  "Conceived without sin."

Sin is Spanish and Chamorro for "without."

Sen is Chamorro for "very much."

If we say, "Sen pekådo," we are saying, "Very much sin."  Not something we want to say about the Mother of God.

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