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Ways to Say: How Are You in Chamorro

In this lesson we discuss the different ways to ask “how are you.” It’s a common question in most languages around the world, and there are many ways to say it in Chamorro. Why so many ways to ask the same thing? Well, for starters, varying how you ask helps you sound more like a native speaker and not a robot. Also, the form you choose may sound awkward or rude if asked to the wrong audience. But luckily for you, you’ve come to the right place, and you can avoid these pitfalls altogether. Ta tutuhon…let’s start!

  1. Actually asking someone “how are you?” This is the most common way of asking someone are you:

    Håfa tatatmanu hao?
    How are you?
  2. And here’s how to ask that same question to a group of people (3 or more people)

    Håfa manatatmanu hamyo?
    How are you all doing?

  3. Using the common Chamorro greeting Håfa Adai! Believe it or not, when someone says håfa adai, they’re saying hello by asking “how is it going?” This is similar to English when people say “how are you” as a greeting.If you actually want to know how someone is doing, you may want to ask “håfa tatatmanu hao?” or the next question…
  4. Ask if they are “still doing well”…Kåo mamaolek ha’? This is a common, less formal way of asking someone how they are. Use this with friends or with people you have some familiarity with.
  5. And more casually…mamaolek ha’? You’re omitting the question marker kåo, so be sure to say it with a question tone.
  6. And again addressing a group:Kåo manmamaolek ha’ hamyo?
    Are you (all) doing well?
  7. Asking how they’re feeling…Kao mamaolek ha’ i siniente-mu? Are you feeling well?

And, if you’re the one asked “how are you” in Chamorro, you might answer with one of the following:

  • Mamaolek ha’ yu’.  I’m still doing good.
  • Gof maolek. Very good.
  • Lamaolek i siniente-ku. I feel better.
  • Malångu  yu’. I’m sick.
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Examples of Chamorro Proverbs

A proverb is a saying that gives advice in an obscure way. The following Chamorro proverbs represent the values of the Mariana Islands and the Chamorro people. They are listed with the original Chamorro saying, its literal translation and the message being conveyed.

1. Munga mañuha ni ti gigao-mu.

Literal translation: Don’t remove the catch from a trap that isn’t yours.

Meaning: Don’t take what doesn’t belong to you.

2. Mientras mas meggai libetta-ña, mas meggai babå-ña.

Literal translation: While one has more free time, one has more foolery.

Meaning: It’s easy to find yourself engaging in mischief when you don’t have anything better to do. This is similar to the English proverb Idle hands are the devil’s workshop, which basically advocates for engaging yourself in some occupation so that the devil always finds you busy and less vulnerable to temptation.

3. Facho’cho’ ya un chochu.

Literal translation: Work and you will eat.

Meaning: This is pretty self-explanatory. Work and you will never be hungry. Similar sayings in English are hard work pays off or even no pain, no gain.

4. Un nota na tentasion nahong rason.

Literal translation: A hint of temptation is reason enough.

Meaning: Don’t allow yourself to be tempted to do something you don’t want to or shouldn’t do.

5. Maolekña manggågåo ya ti manå’i, ki manå’i ya ti ma’agradesi.

Literal translation: It is better that someone asks and it is refused than it be given and not appreciated.

Meaning: It is not as disappointing to see someone being refused something they’ve asked for than to see someone get what they ask for and not appreciate it.

6. An meggai sinangan-mu, meggai dinagi-mu.

Literal translation: The more you say, the more you lie.

Meaning: Great talker, great liar. When someone is a smooth talker, then they are probably a quicker liar.

7. Chagi ya munga madagi.

Literal translation: Try it and you will not be lied to.

Meaning: Experience is the best teacher. No one can trick or lie to you about something you’re familiar with.

8. Guse’ña un gacha’ un dakun ki un kohu.

Literal translation: You are more likely to catch a liar than a cripple.

Meaning: Liars always get caught.

9. Munga mañaluda nu i ti tihong-mu.

Literal translation: Don’t greet someone with a hat that doesn’t belong to you.

Meaning: Do not give away what is not yours to give.

10. I mesngon i manggånna

Literal translation: The one who can endure will be the winner.

Meaning: Anyone who perseveres will always end up winning in the end.

11. Sångan i guaguan.

Literal translation: Speak what is valuable.

Meaning: The word guaguan is usually understood as expensive or costly, but in this context, it can be understood as valuable. In other words, let your words be worth something. 

12. Ti mamaigo’ si Yu’us.

Literal translation: God does not sleep.

Meaning: Don’t forget this if you ever think of doing something bad. God is always watching.

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guaha and taya’

Guaha is used to indicate existence or possession. Tåya’ indicates non-existence or non-possession.

guaha – there is / there are

tåya’  – there isn’t / there aren’t

Examples showing existence and non-existence:

Guaha klas Chamoru gi Lunes yan Mietkoles.
There’s Chamorro class on Mondays and Wednesdays.

Guaha siette dias gi semåna.
There are seven days in a week.

Guaha dosse meses gi un año.
There are twelve months in a year.

Tåya’ klas gi Lunes sa’ Labor Day.
There is no class on Monday, because it is Labor Day.

Tåya’ taotao gi gima’ Yu’us.
There are no people in church.

Tåya’ ti un tungo’.
There is nothing you don’t know.

Examples showing possession and non-possession:

Guaha karetå-hu.
I have a car.

Guaha che’lu-ña palao’an.
He has a sister.

Guaha gima’-måmi.
We have a house. 

Tåya’ salåppe’-ña.
She has no money.

Tåya’ gimen-ta.
We have no drinks.

Kåo tåya’ maleffå-mu?
Did you forget anything? (lit. “Was there nothing you forgot?”)

Everyday Expressions: Tåya’ guaha! Literally meaning “there’s nothing!”, that is, there is no problem or issue, or something is of little consequence, and is the equivalent of the English expression “it’s no big deal!”

Examples of tåya’ guaha as a response:

MARIA:   Are you sure I can borrow your book?

LOLA:    Ai, tåya’ guaha! Oh, no big deal!

Or, asking for assurance:

MARIA:    Tåya’ guaha, if I use your computer?
                   No big deal if I use your computer?

LOLA:        Guse’ ha’. (or Tåya’ guaha!)
                    Just go right ahead.

Guaha and tåya’ are also used in other ways. It is often used with the linking particle na and can take on different meanings depending on what follows. 

With na, guaha and tåya’ can mean that there is/are “some” or “none” of something.

For example:

Guaha na taotao ti yan–ñiha matågo’.
Some people do not like to be told what to do.

Guaha na flores manggof paopao.
Some flowers are very fragrant.

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Affirmative and Negative Commands in Chamorro

There are many different types of commands in Chamorro. There are affirmative commands, negative commands, indirect commands and ta commands.

As with constructing declarative sentences in Chamorro, to give commands we must take into account the number of people involved and the existence and type of an object. The number of people involved refers to the number of people you are giving the command to, and an object’s type refers to the object being specific or non-specific.

Using UM Verbs

By itself, the infinitive form of the intransitive verb is used to address one or two people.

Chochu! Eat!
Baila! Dance!
Såga! Stay!

To address three or more people, we need to use the prefix fan. This prefix is essentially the same as the prefix man used to denote the plural when constructing regular sentences.

Using Transitive MAN Verbs

Because the transitive verb takes an object, using the root verb by itself assumes there’s an object.

Kånno’! Eat it!
Taitai! Read it!
Påtik! Kick it!

The actual object can also be mentioned, and because you are using a transitive verb, the object here is specific.

Kånno’ i na’-mu. Eat your food.
Taitai i lepblo-mu. Read your book.
Påtik i petta. Kick the door.

Now, if the object is non-specific or if there is no object, you must turn the transitive command intransitive by adding fan.

Fanaitai! Read!
Fanestudia! Study!
Fama’tinas hineksa’! Make rice!

The above examples address only 1 or 2 people. To address three or more, you need to add the prefix man.

Fanmanaitai! (All of you,) read!
Fanmanestudia! (All of you,) study!
Fanmama’tinas hineksa’! (All of you,) make rice!

Negative Commands

To order someone not to do something we use the word munga, which means “don’t”, followed by the action. The verb here, no matter the type, must be conjugated in the completed form.

munga + verb

Using UM Verbs

The form of the UM is exactly the same as when conjugating it for a regular
sentence.

Munga chumochu. Don’t eat.
Munga mañochu. Don’t eat (, all of you!) (3+)
Munga kumuentos. Don’t talk.
Munga manguentos. Don’t talk (, all of you!) (3+)

Using MAN Verbs

How we use MAN verbs always depends on whether or not a specific object is involved.

With specific objects
Munga mataitai i lepblo-mu. Don’t read your book.
Munga matuge’ i na’an-mu. Don’t write your name.

Without specific objects
Munga manaitai. Don’t read.
Munga manaitai lepblo. Don’t read a book. OR, Don’t read books.
Munga mangge’. Don’t write.
Munga mangge’ kåtta. Don’t write a letter.

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Examples of Chamorro Idioms

Idioms are phrases that have meanings different from the literal translation. Their use reflects a greater understanding of the language and for the second-language learner is one of the most difficult things to master. Imagine having to master grammar and memorize vocabulary only to learn that you’ve barely scratched the surface of your understanding.

Examples of idioms in English are:

  • Break a leg – Good luck!
  • Call it a day – Stop working on something.
  • Once in a blue moon – Something that doesn’t occur very often.

Chamorro Phrases as Idioms

The following is a list of Chamorro idioms, along with the literal meaning and the colloquial meaning.

  1. matai ñålang literally means “to have died of hunger”. The phrase is used to express that someone is famished, that they’re about to die of starvation.
  2. maipi i pachot literally means “the mouth is hot.” The expression describes someone whose conversations appear to become reality.
  3. mababa literally means “open” or “to be opened”, referring to a person who may have once been timid and is starting to become more social.
  4. matåla’ literally means “to be hung out to dry.” Refers to an outgoing person; someone who is extroverted.
  5. Ha leleggua’ i kichalå-ña literally means “she is stirring her spoon.” Sometimes shortened to just ha leleggua’ gue’, or “she’s stirring herself.” The phrase refers to someone who overhears a conversation but does not fully grasp what is being said and then attempts to be part of the conversation.
  6. dinanche literally means “to have hit the target”, that is, a person aiming to hit something and did. This is how we express that something is “correct,” as in “not wrong.”
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