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Why the University of Guam Renamed Its Semesters

It’s all about promoting the use of Chamorro, the island’s native language.

As students all over the world begin the fall semester, students at the University of Guam are instead meeting roommates, scheduling classes, and cracking open books for fanuchånan.

As Pacific Daily News reports, the university recently gave its academic semesters new names. All are based on the terms for seasons in Chamorro, the island’s traditional language.

The fall semester is now fanuchånan, or “the rainy season,” while the spring semester is fañomnåkan, or “the dry season.” (The terms translate directly as “a time for rain” and “a time for sunshine.”) Fall break is now tinalo’, or “in the middle,” and summer sessions are finakpo’, or “at the end.”

The Chamorro language is spoken by the Chamorro people, Guam’s indigenous residents. Like many such languages, its use has declined precipitously over the years. As Michael Lujan Bevacqua and Kenneth Gofigan Kuper write in an article about Chamorro, when the United States took over governance of Guam in 1898, attempts to “Americanize” the population led to bans on speaking Chamorro in public, including in schools. Although the people of Guam fought these changes, after a period of Japanese occupation during World War II, “language resistance evaporated,” and the decline worsened.

By 2010, the U.S. Census counted a mere 26,000 Chamarro speakers on the island, out of about 160,000 total residents. More recent studies have it at closer to 10,000, and most of these speakers are over 55.

The past decade has seen a variety of efforts to encourage people to speak Chamorro, including immersion schools, apps and websites, and a Youtube soap opera, called Siha.

This effort from the university has been made in the same spirit. “We all know there’s no fall or spring in our part of the world,” university president Dr. Robert Underwood, who spearheaded the change, explains in a video. “But we do have a rainy season and a dry season… [this change] will mark us as uniquely Guam.”

“Have a wonderful and successful fanuchånan,” he closes out.

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