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By Gemma Q. Casas

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Feb. 7) – A growing number of indigenous students are unable to speak and write in their native languages of Carolinian or Chamorro despite the efforts of the Public School System and other concerned agencies to keep the languages alive.

Jesus Elameto, PSS bilingual coordinator and the president of the CNMI chapter of the Pacific Islands Bilingual Bicultural Association, said about 66 percent of indigenous students do not speak their native languages.

Elameto explained the CNMI has three official spoken and written languages—English, Chamorro and Carolinian.

Based on the PSS study, it appears that the students have not mastered any of these due to influences in their home environment.

In a home language survey conducted in 2002-2003 among parents, nearly 50 percent of the 4,047 respondents said they use the English language at home.

In that same survey, 3,577 Carolinian parents said they don’t know the Carolinian writing system, while 1,464 Chamorro parents claim they don’t know the Chamorro writing system.

Last Friday, Elameto led a group of language experts in a workshop entitled "Strengthening Partnership for the High Academic Achievement of Chamorro and Carolinian Students."

Elameto said the workshop had 48 representatives from the Carolinian Affairs Office, the Indigenous Affairs Office, the Women’s Affairs Office, Northern Marianas College, the Ayuda Network, the Youth Congress, PSS and the Marianas High School.

Through collaboration with these agencies, Elameto said they are hoping to strengthen knowledge about the indigenous languages of Carolinian and Chamorro among students and their parents.

Frances Sablan, the former PIBBA international president, said there is a need for the indigenous languages to be taught not only to students but to their parents as well.

"Speaking as a parent, we do need assistance for some of our parents. They want to help their children but many don’t know the orthography or the standards that are being taught in schools," said Sablan.

"That information is above or beyond them. They always say that they can help their children verbally, in speaking and concepts and all that. But many can’t technically assist them in writing," she added.

February 7, 2005

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