Wednesday, December 16, 2015

YOU KNOW YOU'RE CHAMORRO WHEN... ear means 365 days.

Many of our grandmas used to say, "Ears and ears ago, when I was in first grade......"


It's because different languages have different sounds, and also lack other sounds.

Statesiders often have a hard time, for example, saying the Chamorro NG sound as in "Mangilao." When a statesider tries to say "Mangilao," it often comes out as "Manilao."

Many Filipinos struggle with the F sound, which is lacking in most of their native languages.

Russians don't have the H sound. For them, Hitler was Gitler.

And we Chamorros don't have the western Y sound. In our own alphabet, Y makes the DZ sound, as in Yigo and Yoña.

When we have to use a foreign word that has the Y sound, we have two ways of handling that difficulty. The first way is to change the foreign Y sound to our own Y (DZ) sound.

So the Spanish word ya, which means "now" or "already" sounds like DZA when said in Chamorro. We see this in the Chamorro (borrowed from Spanish) expression yå ke, meaning "since that, given that." Yå ke un tungo' håfa ma tago'-mo, hånao ya un kumple ennao! (Now that you know what your task is, go do it!)

The Spanish letter LL is sounded like a Y by nearly all Spanish speakers. So the Spanish word llave sounds like yabe. But in Chamorro it sounds like DZABE.

And the same is true for Spanish mantequilla (butter) which becomes Chamorro mantekiya.

Even Chamorro names, spelled by Spaniards, use the LL but is sounded like DZ in names such as Acfalle, Tajalle and Aflleje.


But the second way we deal with that unpronounceable foreign Y sound is to just ignore it.

So year becomes ear.

As we are now well into an era where almost all of us are English speakers from the day we are born, we are losing our distinct Chamorro way of speaking English.

So I am documenting this way of speaking English, the way our grandparents spoke it, many ears ago.

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