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 salute 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.
Guaha is used to indicate existence or possession. Tåya’ indicates non-existence or non-possession.
guaha – there is / there are
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:
I have a car.
Guaha che’lu-ña palao’an.
He has a sister.
We have a house.
She has no money.
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.
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.
debi di – must, have to
To express obligation as in to say that we must or have to do something, we use the phrase debi di, which is a borrowed expression from Spanish. Debi di can also be used for expectation. In either case, we treat debi di as if it was a modal verb which never changes and almost always starts off the sentence.
MODELU: debi di + future phrase
The following describe how to use debi di.
debi di – must, have to (obligation)
I maolek na estudiante debi di u fanestudia kada dia, hånao para i klas-ña yan cho’gue i che’cho’-ña.
The good student must study every day, go to his class and do his work.
Debi di bai hu falak i post office pa’go sa’ mahuchom agupa’.
I have to go the post office today, because it is closed tomorrow.
Debi di un famaisen antes di un hånao.
You must ask before you leave.
Debi di u ekungok yo’.
She has to listen to me.
Debi di ta osge i mañaina-ta.
We must obey our parents.
debi di – to be expected, supposed to (expectation)
Esta alas 8, debi di u gaigi si Antonia gi che’cho’.
It’s already 8 o’clock, Antonia should be at work.
Debi di u magraduha esta si Jesse.
Jesse should have graduated already.
Learning how to express likes and dislikes is a great way to show your fluency in Chamorro. To do this you say ya followed by a possessive pronoun. For example, -hu is the possessive pronoun “my” in Chamorro and usually follows a word. For example, “my car” is kareta-hu. The verb “to like” is somewhat irregular in Chamorro as it requires you to use a possessive pronoun as demonstrated below.
Ya-hu. I like.
Ya-mu. You like.
Ya-ña. He or she likes.
Ya-ta. We like. (inclusive)
Yan-måmi. We like. (exclusive)
Yan-miyu. You (all) like.
Yan-ñiha. They like.
To say you like an object, you simply use one of the phrases and then the object.
Ya-hu + OBJECT
To say “I like eggs”, you would say: Ya-hu chåda’.
Here are more examples:
Ya-ña si Maria åbas.
Maria likes guava.
Kao ya-mu titiyas?
Do you like titiyas?
To say that you like doing something, you would again use one of the phrases and then say use the completed form of a verb.
I like to dance.
Ya-hu umegga’ Netflix.
I like to watch Netflix.
I like to eat.
Kao ya-mu kumånta?
Do you like to sing?
To say that you don’t like something, you simply have to add the negator ti at the beginning of your statement.
I like bread.
Ti ya-hu pån.
I don’t like bread.
I like to sleep.
Ti ya-ña si George manestudia.
George does not like to study.
Ti yan-ñiha manekungok.
They do not like to listen
Kao ya-mu yu’?
Do you like me?
Vowel Harmony is a linguistic term that refers to the constraints that certain vowels have on what other vowels may be next to them. In Chamorro, the constraint is on the vowel i, which is the definite object marker.
The following sound changes occur in the first syllable of a word when it is preceded by i.
- When the first syllable of a word has an å:
tåsi (sea) –> i tasi
måta (eyes) –> i mata
låpes (pencil) –> i lapes
- When the first syllable of a word has an o:
kostat (sack) –> i kestat
tokcha’ (spear) –> i tekcha’
donne’ (hot pepper) –> i denne’
- When the first syllable of a word has an u:
uchan (rain) –> i ichanpulan (moon) –> i pilangupot (party) –> i gipot
The vowel/sound i also occurs in the preposition gi, meaning at/on/in, and the negator ti, so if a word is preceded by either of these words, the same vowel harmony rules apply.
gupot –> gi gipot (at the party)
gof (very) maolek –> ti gef maolek